Doctors Without Borders Urges Modi Govt to Not Commit on Intellectual Property Rights to US

New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States to discuss a ‘trade-package’ with US President Donald Trump, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has urged the Indian government to not make any commitments regarding intellectual property and argued that it will affect millions of people who rely on affordable generic medicines produced in India.

India supplies affordable generic medicines to people and governments worldwide, including MSF’s humanitarian projects, which are present in more than 70 countries. The MSF is an international humanitarian medical non-governmental organisation (NGO) of French origin best known for its projects in conflict zones and countries affected by endemic diseases.

In a statement, MSF said, "The Indian Commerce Ministry and the United States Trade Representative have been hammering out a trade package before the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the United States scheduled to start this Sunday. The US Trade Representative has a long history of throwing every single intimidation and pressure tactic at the Indian government to undermine price lowering competition from its manufacturers of medicines and other medical products."

It added that already in the run-up to the visit, several news reports had indicated that "US pharmaceutical corporations backed by the US ambassador are pressurising the Indian government to give up health safeguards like price control on essential medical devices."

While noting that this was deeply problematic since it made India’s policy space susceptible to pressures from major pharmaceutical corporations, who have sought to constantly undermine generic competition in the past, Leena Menghaney, Head, India & South Asia, MSF Access Campaign, said, "India should be cautious while signing any trade package or launching trade negotiations with the US that may include harmful provisions threatening India’s ability to produce and supply affordable medical products. Going by past practises, the key focus of the US in any trade pact has always been to prioritise the interests of its pharmaceutical corporations at the cost of people lives. The world can’t afford to see India’s pharmacy shut down to protect the profiteering of US pharmaceutical corporations.”