Indian health secretary ‘strongly disagrees’ with US trade report

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/ePhotocorp)
(Image: Getty/ePhotocorp)

Related tags India Médecins Sans Frontières US Trade Representative

The USTR stated that 20% of medicines on the Indian market were counterfeit, a claim that the country’s health secretary labelled as an ‘opposition to low-cost generics.’

Last week​, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued its annual special 301 report,  which stated that counterfeit medicine produced in China and India is a ‘growing problem.’

In response to the USTR’s claims, Preeti Sudan, India’s secretary for the ministry of health and family welfare, provided a response through local media​, suggesting that the report’s suggestions were inaccurate.

Sudan responded, “We strongly disagree with the observations made by USTR. We do not know the genesis and methodology of their findings. Instead, we view this as opposition to low-cost generics and the thriving Indian drug manufacturing, which is the ‘pharmacy of the world’.”

Indian companies’ exports make up approximately 30% of the US’ total generics market​, in terms of volume.

Though Sudan did not outline why the USTR would oppose low-cost generics, the report did state that India is on the US’ watch list for violations of intellectual property (IP) rights.

The USTR noted that, as a result of a country being on the watch list, the named trading partners would be subject to ‘increased bilateral engagement.’

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a statement in response to the report that defended  India’s stance to IP.

“India’s patent and drug regulatory laws and policies have helped to protect price-lowering generic competition, so much so that the country is known as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’ because it supplies affordable quality generic medicines globally,”​ the non-profit stated.

MSF also stated that two-thirds of the medicines used to treat people with tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria are generics produced in India.

The organisation suggested that the USTR’s efforts for greater enforcement of IP policies will keep medicine prices high globally, whilst making certain treatment “out of reach for longer in developing countries.”

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