[opensourcepharma] food for thought - NY Times op-ed on patents/generics/innovation:

Jaykumar Menon jaykumar.menon at mcgill.ca
Fri Jun 17 15:45:16 UTC 2016


"Mr Modi, Don't Patent Cow Urine"

Big Pharma justifies aggressive patenting by claiming that profit-making drives invention by giving labs and companies an incentive to invest in research. Indian law takes the opposite view: Higher standards for legal protection leave more room for innovation. Unlike many other countries, India does not allow patents for natural substances, traditional remedies, frivolous inventions or marginal innovations.
This is a good thing - a great thing, in fact. Having fewer patents means more competition for more generic drugs, which means more affordable medicine for more people. Imatinib, a drug used to treat a form of leukemia, is available in India at about one-tenth the price it costs in much of the world. In 2000, when the only anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS available were produced by Western companies, the annual cost of treatment was about $10,000. The price has dropped to about $350, at least in the developing world, thanks to generic equivalents that were developed in India.
Naturally, all this drives Big Pharma mad. Its business model relies largely on patenting small tweaks to existing technologies, which multiplies financial returns with only minimal investment in research. A recent Plos One study found that about 36 percent of all new drugs approved in the United States between 1988 and 2005 were protected solely by secondary, or trivial, patents.
This, being precisely what Indian law prohibits, has made India a fixture of the "Priority Watch List" of the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, a kind of most-wanted roster of the world's intellectual-property deviants. Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United States last week, 17 U.S. industry associations, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, wrote to President Obama to complain about India's business environment, in particular its patent laws.
Back in 1970, India withdrew drug patents in order to support its generic-drugs industry. They were reintroduced, with caveats, in 2005 when the country's entire intellectual property regime was updated to comply with World Trade Organization rules. Acting on the advice of public-health activists, a group of Communist parties that formed an indispensable minority of the governing coalition forced the Congress Party to go along with the innovation-friendly restrictions that remain today.
Last month, when the B.J.P. announced its new intellectual property policy, it in effect repeated India's longstanding response to its critics: Tough luck; our patent laws comply with W.T.O. standards, and that's that.

Jaykumar Menon, J.D., M.I.A.
Professor of Practice
McGill University Institute for the Study of International Development
[McGill ISID logo small]
Peterson Hall, Room 128
3460 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec H3A 0E6

Research Fellow
Centre for International Sustainable Development Law

Tel: 514-398-3507
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