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Big pharma war: India slams US for crusading against cheap generics

Big pharma war: India slams US for crusading against cheap generics
Washington’s push for intellectual property rights in the pharma industry is an attack on India’s generic drug trade, New Delhi says as a US government report accuses India of distributing counterfeit drugs worldwide.

Authorities in New Delhi were appalled as the “Special 301 report” published by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Saturday pinpointed India – alongside China – as the leading global sources of counterfeit medicines. The document, which reviews the state of intellectual property protection around the world, also alleges that up to 20 percent of drugs sold on the Indian market are fake and represent a danger to public health and safety.

Meanwhile, the Indian health care official slammed the findings of the report asserting that the accusations are meant to put pressure on affordable generic drugs. “We strongly disagree with the observations made by USTR. We do not know the genesis and methodology of their findings. Instead, we view this as opposition to low-cost generics and the thriving Indian drug manufacturing industry,” health secretary Preeti Sudan told local media.

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The official argued that generic drugs are low-cost but quality products and assured that only certified medicines are exported from India. The USTR report, however, puts India on a ‘priority watch list’ for violating the rights of the US patent holders, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

The sentiment that India has been treated unfairly by the US government was in the meantime shared by MSF (Médecins sans frontières) or Doctors Without Borders. In a press release issued on Saturday, the medical NGO stated that the report findings are “in line” with the demands from the big pharma players to tighten intellectual property standards. These calls, however, may eventually deprive many people worldwide of affordable health care, MSF warns.

"At a time when medicine prices are soaring, the report undermines the efforts seeking to make medicines more affordable domestically. USTR’s push for more protection and enforcement of IP policies would keep medicine prices high globally and place lifesaving treatments out of reach for longer in developing countries.”

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India is the largest producer of generic drugs in the world with its exports covering 40 percent of generic demand in the US and 25 percent of all medicine market in the UK. Its pharma market was valued at $33 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $55 billion by 2020.

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