Updated on 26 October 2012
As OPPI President, what is your view on compulsory licensing?
The compulsory licensing provisions in the Indian Patents Act are basically in consonance with the TRIPS Agreement. However, provisions in the Indian compulsory licensing law regarding pricing and local working, in OPPI' s view, go beyond what is provided in the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration, and are not in line with India's obligations as a WTO member.
We believe the government can achieve its objectives for patients through collaboration without the uncertainty that arises from unilateral actions taken on compulsory licensing. In those instances where collaboration does not prove to be a fruitful approach, developing countries like India may make use of compulsory licensing as a last resort. However, the issuance of compulsory licenses to address pricing or budget constraints could come at a long-term cost, limiting important incentives for research and development that are necessary to positively impact the lives of millions of patients worldwide.
Issuing of compulsory licenses will not significantly expand access as even at reduced prices generics are out of reach of the poor in India. Once we have the right ecosystem in place that fosters innovation, then the balancing acts such as compulsory licensing on a case by case basis, like in times of a national health emergency, can be justified. Compulsory licenses are powerful rights granted to governments to deal with extraordinary situations. And with great power comes great responsibility. It is, therefore, incumbent upon those who deal with such power to ensure that these rights are exercised judiciously.
The government has recently been in talks for a number of initiatives to promote generics, especially promoting states that have made prescribing generics a compulsory practice. How do you think such a move is perceived by pharma companies in India?
OPPI member companies are happy to partner with the government in working towards the universal goal of healthcare for all. Making medicines available, however, is not just a factor of price and the sooner we realise this, the better it will be for all concerned. Global pharma companies have already been involved in introducing innovative ways to make their drugs widely available, including tiered pricing, public private partnerships and full donation programs.
More importantly, the income generated throughout the world by branded products allows research-oriented pharmaceutical companies to invest into medicines of the future. The Indian middle-class could contribute to finance the required expensive pharmaceutical research through a robust healthcare funding system.