UN declaration backs India’s policy on generic HIV/AIDS medicines

medicinesUnited Nations, (IANS) India’s policy of allowing the manufacture of generic HIV/AIDS medicines for the global poor using the flexibilities in intellectual property laws has received an endorsement from the General Assembly and New Delhi has given an assurance it will continue to provide a pharmaceutical lifeline to the developing countries.

A Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS adopted Wednesday at the the General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS said that “access to safe, effective and affordable medicines” was a fundamental right and called on all countries to ensure that intellectual property rights provisions in trade agreements do not undermine the existing avenues of providing generic medicines.

It urged them to make use of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIP) flexibilities “specifically geared to promoting access to and trade in medicines.”

More than 80 percent of the antiretroviral drugs for treating HIV/AIDS are supplied by the Indian pharmaceutical industry and they have helped save millions of lives, Health Minister J.P. Nadda told the meeting.

To “ensure access to affordable medicines and commodity security,” he said, “India is committed to maintain the TRIPS flexibilities.”

TRIPS is an international agreement under the World Trade Organisation that generally prevents manufacturing generic versions of medicines that are under patent. However, the so-called flexibilities allowed under TRIP allow countries to allow the making of cheap generic copies of medicines under some circumstances by issuing what are called compulsory licences.

The enforcement measures for intellectual property rights should be should be interpreted in “a manner supportive of the right of member states to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.” the declaration said.

The declaration also backed South-South cooperation in combating AIDS and set the goal of eradicating the disease by 2030.

Pharmaceutical multinationals have been pressuring India against granting compulsory licences for generic medicines. International humanitarian organisations like Doctors Without Borders or Medecins Sans Frontières have waged a counter campaign for India to continue allowing Indian pharmaceutical companies to make the cheaper copies of drugs.

Nadda said that India, “which faced the spectre of disastrous” AIDS epidemic 15 years ago has beaten it back successfully. AIDS deaths have been reduced by nearly 55 percent since 2007 and new HIV infections have come down by 66 percent since 2000, he added. About 1 million people affected by AIDS are currently on antiretroviral therapy, he said.

“These remarkable successes would not have been possible without access to affordable medicines,” he said.

Empowerment of communities and close collaboration with civil society groups by the government and funding them have helped deliver key life saving services to those affected affected, he said.

India’s National AIDS Control Organization estimated that there were 2.1 million people living with AIDS in 2015 and there were 86,000 new infections that year.

By Arul Louis

Medaram Jathara

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