Leaders of Indian pharmaceutical industry have claimed that a new US led trade deal will delay the arrival of new cheap drugs and joined public health activists in criticizing the deal.
Speaking on behalf of the Indian pharma industry, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), DG Shah pointed out that, "The generics decline will be discernible from the end of 2017." It means the arrival of new cheap drugs will be delayed due to the new deal. The critics of the deal including advocacy groups like Medecins Sans Frontieres say it will increase the prices of medicines around the world in the long run.
Even the US Democratic party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton warned that the deal seemed to put the interests of big US drug companies ahead of patients.
Countries from the United States to Africa rely on India as a supplier of cheap medicines, earning it the "pharmacy to the world" nickname.
Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor of economics and law at Columbia University, considered one of the world's leading trade economists, said the deal was part of a trend to include trade-unrelated features on labor and intellectual property into trade deals, at the behest of U.S. lobbies.
Citing details leaked by Wikileaks, as the text has not been formally released, Shah said Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) sought to extend patent life, make it easier to 'evergreen' patents, and abolish rules allowing generic companies to undertake product development during the life of the patent. "TPP is a model of such behaviour and deplorable architecture," he said.
The deal, a central tenet of U.S. President Barack Obama's focus on Asia, is pending ratification by member countries and approval by the U.S. Congress.
Under current global rules drug manufacturers can sell products they develop exclusively for at least 20 years, after which generic manufacturers can produce cheaper copies.
Citing details leaked by Wikileaks, as the text has not been formally released, Shah said TPP sought to extend patent life, make it easier to 'evergreen' patents, and abolish rules allowing generic companies to undertake product development during the life of the patent.
"These and many other provisions will delay the launch of generics in the USA and other TPP member states," said Shah, who heads the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.Biogen Frontier
One focus of criticism is a clause in the deal that would allow companies in member countries to keep clinical data on new biological drugs hidden for up to eight years.
Since some TPP countries do not currently afford such protections, the clause would effectively delay the launch of cheaper forms, or biosimilars, of such drugs by other companies, said Judit Rius Sanjuan, a legal policy adviser for MSF in New York.
Campaigners fear such provisions could become a global norm.
Even so, the clinical data clause was not as restrictive as the 12 years the U.S. pharmaceutical industry wanted.
"There has been a push back from member countries, which has reduced the data exclusivity period," said Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chief of India's biggest biotech firm Biocon Ltd. "(This) should work to the advantage of Indian biopharma."
And Amitabh Kant, secretary of India's Department for Industrial Policy and Promotion, said it was too early to say what impact the deal would have on the Indian industry.
"(TPP) is a long-term process," said Kant, adding that India was keen to reach an agreement on a regional trade pact with South East Asia and China, and aspired to become a global pharmaceutical manufacturing center.