India's patent law passes lower house

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Patent, Pharmacology, India

India's new patent law, that will prevent domestic pharmaceutical
manufacturers from making low-cost generic copies of in-patent
drugs - has finally been passed by the lower house of the country's
parliament, writes Phil Taylor.

The news has been welcomed by international pharmaceutical companies, but drawn criticism from international aid groups which say the new law will deprive millions in the country of access to life-saving medicines.

Last month, it was reported that around 12,000 patent applications have been filed by multinational pharmaceutical companies for their patented drugs that are sold in India as generics, and companies that have built their business on copying in-patent drugs for the domestic market are expected to be hit hard.

India has passed the bill in order to comply with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation, whose ranks the country recently joined. The legislation still needs to go in front of the upper house, but is expected to be rubber stamped and in force soon. It will replace the current patent law, which allows patented drugs to be copied, as long as a different manufacturing process is used to make them.

The aid agencies, including Oxfam in the UK and France's Medecins Sans Frontieres, are particularly worried that the law will affect not only the people of India, but also those of other countries around the world who have come to rely on affordable generic medicines made by Indian companies for a host of diseases, including HIV and cancer.

And while the Indian government as a whole is backing the new law to the hilt and says it has the power to intervene if prices rocket, some Ministers are also concerned about the impact it will have on the country's drug industry.

These Ministers have called for a waiver that would allow compulsory licenses for patented products to be retained for three years, allowing the government to sidestep patents in cases of public health need.

The government believes that patent recognition is an essential evolution for India's drug industry as it moves towards more in-house R&D and the creation of partnerships with overseas companies.

Related topics: Markets & Regulations

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