Prime Minister's Office moots high-level meeting on the issue

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Data-exclusivity ensures that information submitted by drug or agro-chemical companies while seeking a marketing approval is kept confidential by the Government

Mumbai, June 19

The rumble over data-exclusivity is getting louder, with international aid agencies and political parties joining the debate.

Data-exclusivity ensures that information submitted by drug or agro-chemical companies while seeking a marketing approval is kept confidential by the Government for a fixed period of time, when even the regulatory authority is not allowed to rely on this classified data.

Contentious Issue

And the heightened interest in data-exclusivity is because a high-level meeting mooted by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is expected to swing a decision one way or the other. The PMO is said to have initiated the meeting as inter-ministerial interactions failed to chart a course on the contentious issue.

In a recent letter to the Prime Minister, BJP's Dr Murli Manohar Joshi says, "Providing of data exclusivity has serious implications for the role of domestic enterprises in the fields of pharmaceutical and agro-chemical products. If data exclusivity is conceded domestic enterprises would be prevented from taking marketing approvals on the basis of the data submitted by the first enterprise who had generated the data and submitted the same for taking marketing approval."

Intellectual Property Rights

Writing in his capacity as the Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, Dr Joshi, echoes the World Health Organisation's recommendation on data exclusivity: That developing countries be well advised to keep the systems of Intellectual Property Rights and drug regulation separate and reject efforts to make connections between the two.

Earlier this month, international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Doctors Without Borders said in its letter to the Prime Minister that the Drugs and Cosmetics Act was a legislation related to health and improving access to drugs. "An amendment to implement an intellectual property agreement in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act can have a serious impact on the approval and availability of generic versions of essential drugs," the letter said.

Exclusive Rights

"If the Indian Government starts providing exclusive rights over test data, this will delay generic competition from Indian pharmaceutical companies even in cases where the medicines are not patent protected," the MSF letter points out.

But with the debate set to go down to the wire, innovator companies insist that India has an international legal obligation to protect commercially sensitive data generated during the development of regulated products. And protection of this data was important for new products and investments to come into the country.

Related Stories:
No data exclusivity yet for pharma companies
Data exclusivity vs patent: The myths and the realities
PMO working on pharma policy

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 20, 2006)
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