About 150 people which included some AIDS sufferers, held protests today against the proposed move of US biotech company to patent its anti-HIV drug, Tenofovir, in India. The demonstrators alleged that this move could halt the local production of the generic equivalent.
The company, Gilead Sciences Inc., has applied for an Indian patent on the drug tenofovir. The drug has been available in India as the generic tenofovir disoproxil fumarate since last year.
Some demonstrators beat drums and carried placards reading 'Patients against Patents,' and 'Lives before Profits.' Some wore T-shirts with the message: 'We are HIV positive.'
The protestors were briefly detained by the police before being allowed to go home.
According to Loon Gangte, a spokesman for the Delhi Network of Positive People. 'For many of us living with HIV/AIDS, newer drugs like tenofovir offer a new hope of continuing treatment. With patents interfering with our lives, we have no choice but to oppose them.'
Delhi Network of Positive People, along with another anti-AIDS organization, the Indian Network for People Living With HIV/AIDS, filed an application with the New Delhi Patent Office yesterday opposing Gilead's request.
Gilead has been offering tenofovir in treatment programmes to eligible developing countries.
The number of AIDS infected people in India is estimated to be about 5.21 million the second only to South Africa.
Medecins Sans Frontiers, an international medical aid agency providing technical support to the Indian groups in their legal battle has said that patenting in India would exclude millions of people from access to essential medicines.
According to them 'TDF is clearly emerging as an important drug in the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.'
And therefore if Gilead were to be granted a patent in India for TDF, its generic production would be forced to halt, making it more expensive and less easily available.