New Delhi: People people living with HIV/AIDS want to send the government a strong message. More than four lakh people on life-saving anti-retroviral drugs in India could lose access to the affordable medicines. If a proposed Free Trade Agreement with the European Union goes through.
Daisy David who is living with HIV said, "Right now they have access to free ARV, they cannot afford to buy costly drugs."
While annual first-line treatment using generic drugs costs less than Rs 9000 a year, if patients had to depend on patented drugs, that would cost up to six times as much.
Indian drug companies that make generic versions of drugs only get approval after proving their drugs are bio-equivalent without actually repeating clinical trials. That's how they're able to keep the costs down. Which won't be the case with this free trade agreement.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover said, "Data exclusivity means companies cannot produce drugs for a period of 5-6 years."
The EU has defended its move. "The future agreement will not restrict India's right to regulate to ensure public policy objectives or its ability to manufacture generic medicines either for domestic or international markets."
It's a global issue with patients in countries from Brazil to Nepal depending on India.
With the agreement still being negotiated and a final decision expected in May, the Health Ministry has so far refused to comment, though some activists say that it, and the Commerce Ministry are against this clause.