TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (July11/06)
14 July 2011
Third World Network

No data exclusivity clauses in trade pacts, assures India
Published in SUNS #7186 dated 8 July 2011

Geneva, 7 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The Commerce and Industry Minister of India, Mr Anand Sharma, has given assurances that India will reject any efforts to include
"data exclusivity" clauses in bilateral trade agreements.

In a press statement, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has welcomed these assurances given by the Indian Minister at a meeting between him and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe that was held on 6 July at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

"We reject data exclusivity clauses in free trade agreements," said Mr Sharma.

(Civil society groups have been warning against efforts to include data exclusivity clauses in free trade agreements, particularly in the negotiations on the European Union-India free trade agreement.)

According to the UNAIDS press statement, in welcoming the Indian Minister's assurance, Mr Sidibe said: "Millions of people will die if India cannot produce generic antiretroviral drugs, and Africa will be the most affected. For me, it is an issue of life or death."

UNAIDS said that India's pharmaceutical industry produces more than 85% of the first-line antiretroviral drugs used to treat people living with HIV.

The cost of the least expensive first generation treatment regimen has dropped to less than US$86 per patient per year.

But as increasing numbers of people move towards more efficacious and tolerable first-line treatment, drug prices could double compared to first-generation
regimens, it added.

In addition, said the UNAIDS press statement, as patients develop drug resistance and require more expensive and patent-protected second- and third-line antiretroviral medicines, some projections indicate treatment costs escalating by as much as twenty-fold.

"The Government of India reaffirms its full commitment to ensure that quality generic medicines, including antiretroviral drugs, are seamlessly available, and to make them available to all countries," said Mr Sharma.

"India will also use the flexibilities allowed under TRIPS, including the use of compulsory licensing, to ensure that people living with HIV have access to all
life-saving medicines," the Indian Minister stressed.

"India, together with Brazil, South Africa, China and Russia, must forge an alliance with other high-income countries to ensure that no single person in the world dies because they could not afford to buy life-saving medicines or health care," Mr Sidibe said.

According to the UNAIDS press statement, an estimated 15 million people are eligible for antiretroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries, and about 6.6 million people have access to HIV treatment.

The Government of India provides free antiretroviral treatment to more than 420,000 people living with HIV in India, UNAIDS added.

Current treatment approaches are not sufficient to provide access to all who need it. UNAIDS and other partners advocate for Treatment 2.0 - a framework that seeks to simplify the way treatment is currently provided.

For this approach to succeed, said the UNAIDS press statement, TRIPS flexibilities as well as innovation and protection of intellectual property rights will play an important role for treatment access in the future.+