Over the past couple of years there has been a tremendous improvement in the fight against HIV and aids of importance concern is the anti retro viral drugs that have helped prolong the lives and dramatically improve peoples health taking them from near death back to health, family and employment. Across the developing world more than five million people receive anti retro viral drugs which represent important progress. however a further nearly ten million people are in urgent need for treatment and will die within the next few years if such treatment is not availed to them it is therefore important on everyone especially the government and international community to ensure that such essential medication is made available to all who need it.
India has been the biggest producer of quality generic medicines to the developing world. Up to 80% of HIV medicines from donor money were purchased from India from 2003 to 2008 indeed India is commonly referred to as the pharmacy of the developing world. The critical role that India plays in the fight of HIV and AIDS in the developing world cannot be under stated.
This continued sourcing is however under threat as India became a key source of affordable medicines until 2005 the country did not grant patents on medicines. This meant that affordable generic versions could be produced freely by multiple producers bringing the prices for most commonly used AIDS treatment combination down by more than 99% since 2000. Since 2005 however the world trade organization trips has obligated India to begin patenting its medicines
The situation gets even worse now that The European Union is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with India that include harmful provisions that would seriously hamper the access to medicines in the developing world. Amongst the demands that the European union is making is one for data exclusivity which ideally would require generics producers to generate their own clinical trial data that would not only be expensive but also unethical as it would require repeating trials for drugs already proven effective , and withholding life-saving medicine from the control group. If adopted such a policy would be dangerous as it would increase monopolies meaning more expensive drugs and woo unto the developing world that cannot afford the said medicines.
The united sates on the other hand is also demanding that India adopts more restrictive intellectual property policies that would hinder generic production and restrict use of public and restrict use of public health safe guards.
The European Union and the United States are also pushing for policies that will undermine access to affordable generics through the Anti-counterfeiting trade agreement which essentially allows the customs official to detain and destroy medicines based on suspected trademark infringements. Big pharmaceutical companies will be able to use such an agreement to punish generic producers. The end result would be restriction son generic competition which will lead to higher drug prices and diminished access to medicines people need to stay alive.
Such restrictions on the India market will directly translate into decreased pipeline of affordable versions of important HIV medicines for people in developing countries. The number of patients switching to second line medicines is increasing but unless attacks by the European commission and others on the future of generic production in India are stopped, costs to donors and national programmes will rise, anti retro viral access will be rationed and patients will die
As we commemorate the world aids day lets not relent in the fight against the virus