A civil society group has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his visit to the US this weekend, urging him to reject any proposals for a potential free trade deal with the country, stating that it would hurt India’s generic pharmaceuticals industry and access to affordable health care. It has also requested him to ignore any proposals to amend the Indian Patents Act and defend against any potential requests to remove price caps on medicines and medical devices.
“We have learnt that there is a proposal to conclude a trade deal as well as eventual initiation of negotiations on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, raising serious concerns on issues regarding access to medicines and medical devices,” the Third World Network stated in its letter to the Prime Minister Friday, adding that it was also aware that the US has requested specific amendments to the patent regulations here.
“This is a matter of grave concern. Millions of people in India, state governments and the Ministry of Health rely on domestically produced affordable generic medicines, devices and vaccines to prevent and treat communicable and non-communicable diseases,” it stated. A decision to start FTA negotiations with the US would “inevitably lead to proposals on intellectual property that will go beyond India’s obligations under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)”, stated the organisation. It would also “dilute the legal flexibilities” available to safeguard the “vital competition” that Indian manufacturers provide to bring down prices of essential pharmaceutical products, it added.
“The US demands on price control and intellectual property threaten India’s public health friendly patent laws and compromise the Government’s ability to fulfill its obligations on right to health which is part of Article 21 of our Constitution,” it stated. 36 activists, including the All India Drug Action Network and The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), have endorsed this letter.