India pledges new low-cost drugs to developing nations

New Delhi: Stressing that India's pharmaceutical technology was appropriate for Africa, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said India is committed to making available to developing countries newer generation life-saving drugs also.

"Eightyseven developing countries, their entire health care system is supported by Indian medicines, and we're committed to ensure that even the new generation of life-saving drugs, the Indian pharmaceutical industry will make, are available to our people and people of developing countries," Sharma said here at Sunday evening's inauguration of the 10th CII-Exim Bank conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership.

Describing India as a leader in the production of finished generics, Sharma told the gathering, which included ministers from many African countries, how the arrival of Indian generic drugs has changed the global discourse on anti-retrovirals (ARVs) for the treatment of HIV-AIDS rampant in Africa.

He pointed out how ARV costs have been brought down from $1,900 to $1,100 to treatment cost levels of a dollar a day.

"India has become the pharmacy of the world. We're the largest maker of finished generics and our biggest exports are to the US. And in the US, after the US pharma companies, the second largest FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approvals are with the Indian pharma companies," Sharma said.

This comes in the context of US pressures on India to increase its intellectual property rights (IPR) protection beyond the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has initiated a probe against India's domestic trade and investment policies, particularly intellectual property, or patent laws.

At a US Trade Representative (USTR) hearing Feb 24, several US-based organisations recommended that India be designated as a priority foreign country, alleging it lacks adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.

India's patent laws include provisions to ensure that intellectual property rights do not hinder the government taking measures for promoting public health. This includes making life saving medicines available at affordable rates.

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