Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jan 10, 2003

Port Info

Group Sites

Industry & Economy - WTO

Sachs backs Indian stand on WTO pharma issue

P.T. Jyothi Datta

"The US virtually stood alone in blocking the broader interpretation. The Indian Government in negotiating on this issue held out for the broader interpretation and I think that they did a good job."


IN the great WTO divide on making generic drugs available to low-income countries, the "eternal India optimist" and economist, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, on Thursday stood up to be counted with those espousing the generics' cause.

Speaking exclusively to Business Line, the defender of free-market economy, Prof Sachs, endorsed the approach of the Indian Government at the recent WTO meeting that broke down due to a stalemate with the US.

"The basic principle is that public health in the low-income countries should be ahead of the Intellectual Property Right (IPR) guarantees to the patent-holders," he said. There is no trade policy limiting Indian generic companies producing for the Indian market. The concern is about poor countries that do not have domestic production capacity and whether they can access generic drugs from countries such as India.

While everyone agrees in principle that a poor country, without manufacturing facilities should have the right to buy certain drugs from generic producers, the debate is on whether to include low-income countries under this principle. Also, should the scope of the principle be broadened from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria drugs to drugs for other illnesses too, he pointed out.

"I support a broader interpretation which says lower income countries should be able to gain access to generic drugs under the trade rules for a wide range of essential purposes not just the mentioned diseases. Under that broader interpretation, there is also the commercial role for Indian companies to sell abroad, which I support," he said. "The US virtually stood alone in blocking the broader interpretation. The Indian Government in negotiating on this issue held out for the broader interpretation and I think that they did a good job," he said.

Responding to whether his opinion put him on a confrontationist path with US drug majors, he clarified: "I support IPR in high-income markets. They need to make profits on their research and developments and so we should have strong patent protection in the US, Europe or Canada or other high-income markets. However, they should not and cannot expect to make profits in low-income countries where people are dying for lack of access to drugs. These companies really make their money in the high-income market and they should not stand in the way of poor people gaining access to drugs in the low-income countries."

Meanwhile, in India, to resolve the paradox of domestic companies being active in the global anti-AIDS market even while local HIV-infected were unable to afford anti-AIDS drugs, he suggested: "The Government should access the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, use these funds to procure low-cost drugs from local generic companies. And this could be distributed to the infected patients through the public system," he added.

Stressing the urgency to act on HIV/AIDS, he said: "Foreign investors will be relieved to see India making major commitments in health and education. They know it's not just the infrastructure in terms of ports and roads that matter. It is also the health and quality of labour. Increased Government spending on healthcare and the quality of human potential would in fact be very re-assuring to investors."

Send this article to Friends by E-Mail
Comment on this article to

Stories in this Section
ICICI Bank starts advisory service for NRIs

Playwin stops sales in TN
Chemicals sector lures most investment in Bengal
Amartya hails India's `openness'
RBI holds talks with Finance Secretaries
UN downbeat on economic recovery
Amtex 2003 targets orders worth Rs 300 cr
PCB restores power to two Tirupur units
Mahajan going to Egypt, S. Africa to boost ties
BD Biosciences unveils flow cytometry gadget
Health Ministers' meet soon
RIL strikes gas off Gujarat
OPEC to stabilise crude prices soon — To consider concession for India
No plan to merge IOC, ONGC
Fourth round of NELP in early April: Naik
GAIL mulling new pipeline for natural gas
Pharma industry hands out strong dose to women
Power supply curbs from Sharavathy
Jaswant to discuss VAT with States
Krishna drinking water project by early 2004
Readymade exports to quota countries up 9.45 pc
Kerala local bodies to put up 51 proposals at GIM
Sachs backs Indian stand on WTO pharma issue
`B-schools must forge links with corporates'
`NRIs are no drain, but brain trust'
TN to allow pvt cos in core sector projects
Dual citizenship for people of Indian origin
PM opens door for dual citizenship — Legislation in Budget session
Gitex Hyderabad cuts expo rates
Gujarat to host Petrominex
Commonwealth body, CII spot tie-up avenues
Bangalore Engagement
Showbiz may get a big dose of venture capital
Emigrants don't need I-T clearance
ESC's Kolkata office to boost regional exports
Fresh bid to settle Keltron liabilities
Cabinet okays serious frauds office proposal
Doubts on SFO

The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |

Copyright 2003, The Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu Business Line