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26 February : Global Day of Action against Indian Patent Ordinance

publié en ligne : 16 February 2005

On 26 December 2004, the Government of India promulgated an Ordinance amending the Indian Patents Act 1970. The provisions of the Patent (Amendment) Ordinance seriously threatens access to medicines in India and worldwide - such countries which are dependent upon imports from India and compromises peoples’ basic Rights to Life and Health.

Everyday, 8,500 HIV-positive people die due to lack of access to treatment worldwide. Of the 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, 6 million are in immediate need of anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment. More than 5 million people in India are living with HIV and 0.5 million of these need immediate treatment. Only 0.44 million people living with HIV in all developing countries currently have access to ARV treatment. This access has been greatly facilitated by the Indian generic pharmaceutical companies bringing down prices of medicines drastically. Presently, Indian generic manufacturers export generic medicines to over 200 countries all over the world.

For people with living with HIV whose current treatment regimen is failing, access to newer, more expensive «second-line» ARV drugs is critical. These combinations cost 20 times more than «first-line» combinations. With India’s Patent Ordinance, generic production of many of these new medicines will be blocked. The same is the case with other ailments like cancer, cardiovascular diseases etc. For instance, the anti-cancer drug Gleevec costs US$2500 per month while generic version of the same is available at US$250 per month in India. An Exclusive Marketing Right (EMR) that has been granted to Novartis A.G., the manufacturer of Gleevec, is already threatening availability of the generic drugs.

Apart from pharmaceuticals, the Ordinance also provides patent protection to agro-chemicals and fertilisers enabling the companies to charge monopoly prices. High costs of pesticides will result in costlier foodgrains and will negatively hit consumers, especially the poor. The Ordinance also brings software under the purview of patent protection furthering the digital divide.

The Patent Ordinance prescribes «TRIPS-PLUS» standards that take India beyond the commitments agreed to under the TRIPS agreement. Further, it also undermines the flexibility available within TRIPS, as reiterated in the Doha Declaration, to ensure access to medicines to people of India and other developing countries. Global Coalition against the Indian Patent Amendment believes that India has a duty to place public health concerns and access to medicines for people over the commercial interests of pharmaceutical companies. Public interest groups in India are gravely concerned that the Ordinance will trade away India’s right to protect public health including availability of low-cost, quality generic medicines. In other words, accepting the Ordinance will have the effect of losing even the minimum space available within the TRIPS agreement to protect health.

Against this background, public interest groups and trade unions are holding a mass protest on 26 February 2005 against the Patents (Amendment) Ordinance 2004. We call upon like-minded groups all over the world to observe a Global Day of Action (GDA) on 26 February 2005 to demand access to generic drugs in India and elsewhere. In the past, such actions resulted in major victories and forced pharmaceutical companies to drop suits against the South African government (March 2001) and also compelled the US to change its decision to approach the WTO Dispute Settlement Body against Brazil (June 2001). We hope this time too, peoples’ unity will win over corporate power and force the government of India to replace the Ordinance with the new Bill and to tackle the public health concerns in India and elsewhere.

Public interest groups and individuals all over the world are requested to hold protests in the form of rallies, marches and vigils against the Patents Ordinance. Groups can also formally convey their protest to the Indian embassies and consulates. A website is being created to coordinate the activities and facilitate sharing of information on GDA (www.gcaipa.org). The website www.gcaipa.org would be accessible to the public from 0900 hrs GMT on 09.02.2005.

In Solidarity

Global Coalition against the Indian Patent Amendment (GCAIPA)

GCAIPA is an informal network of groups and individuals that are working to ensure access to treatment, food, information, etc. There are many more organisations and individuals behind this campaign and lot more are joining. So the contact list presented below is just to facilitate communication in various regions.

Contact Persons:
- National Working Group on Patent Laws : A-388, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi-110 044, India ; Telephone: +91-11-26947403 ; Fax: +91 -11-26813311 ; Email: wgkeayla AT del6.vsnl.net.in [1]; Contact person: B K Keayla ; Mobile: +91 9811143191
- Affordable Medicines and Treatment Campaign (AMTC) : C/o Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit ; 2nd Floor, 7/10, Botawalla Building, Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 023, India ; Telephone: + 91-22-22630889 ; Fax: + 91-22-22702563 ; Email: amtc_india AT yahoo.co.in [1] ; Contact person: K M Gopakumar ; Mobile:+91 9819140881
- People’s Health Movement Secretariat (Global) : c/o Community Health Cell, # 367, "Srinivasa Nilaya", Jakkasandra I Main, I Block, Koramangala, Bangalore 560 034, India ; Telephone: + 91-80-25531518 ; Fax: + 91-80-25525372 ; Email: secretariat AT phmovement.org [1]; contact person: Prasanna Saligra ; Mobile: + 91 9845518382
- Association For India’s Development and Insaaf International, Maryland, USA : Vineeta Gupta ; Email: guptahr AT yahoo.com [1]

Notes

[1] replace AT with @

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