Own up to global warming; clean the coal
I refer to the Bloomberg contributed story “Developing nations need $50 billion to tackle global warming: Oxfam”, Mint, 30 May. The developing nations, including India and China, cannot afford to ignore the problem. Coal-based power is known as the major contributor towards carbon dioxide emissions. A recent report on India’s integrated energy policy has projected a fivefold growth in our coal consumption to nearly 2,000 million tonnes (mt) in 2031-32. By then China’s coal consumption is likely to cross 4,000mt. While the developing countries rightly assert that developed countries must own the responsibility of correcting the imbalance created by their past contributions to global warming, they have to take serious steps to implement the already available clean coal technologies to reduce the impact of the projected increase in coal use. We cannot afford to wait and watch and allow the situation to become unmanageable.
—R.K. Sachdev, former adviser (Coal) to Government of India
This is in response to IDMA executive director Gajanan Wakankar’s comments, Mint, 15 May, on a prior article, “Patents help all in the long run”, by Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of Novartis, Mint, 10 May.
In his article, “Common sense and patent laws”, Wakankar comments: “The author (Daniel Vasella) claims Novartis is giving away Glivec to poor Indian cancer patients free of cost. That is really good. The only snag is, the company is probably doing it for publicity reasons as we have not heard of other drugs given by them free of cost to poor people.”
In my capacity as director, Novartis Comprehensive Leprosy Care Association (NCLCA), an NGO, I wish to state that I have worked closely with Novartis for over a decade in its attempt to solve the unmet needs of leprosy patients in India. In all fairness to the company, which is involved in a lot of charitable work, it is important to present these facts:
Apart from Glivec, the other drugs given free of charge to poor people by Novartis include Multi-drug Therapy (MDT) for leprosy. Since 2000, Novartis has been providing this treatment to leprosy patients worldwide through the World Health Organization. To date, nearly four million patients globally have been offered Novartis-donated MDT free of charge to help eliminate the disease. India is a major recipient of this programme as it accounts for around 65% of global new case detection. Moreover, Novartis is committed to supplying the MDT free of cost till 2010. This makes it clear that Novartis is a socially responsible organization, firmly committed to improving patient access to leprosy treatment.
Leprosy patients generally come from the poorest strata of society and need not only a cure from the disease but also care on account of the associated deformities and stigma.
To alleviate their sufferings, the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development supports NCLCA in India. The association’s activities include disability prevention, correction, care and rehabilitation of leprosy-affected individuals and also other patients with similar deformities. Over the years, with thousands of patients benefiting directly or indirectly from these activities, the burden on health care services in India has been significantly reduced. Novartis also makes available, at no profit, Coartem, its combination therapy for malaria. During 2006, more than 62 million treatment courses of Coartem were delivered to more than 30 countries in Africa, helping to save an estimated 200,000 lives.
Further, the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore is devoted solely to finding therapies for tuberculosis, dengue fever and other diseases endemic to developing nations, including India. Any medicines resulting from research done at NITD will be sold on a not-for-profit basis. Both tuberculosis and dengue fever are serious health care concerns in India, and new therapies will be of great benefit.
Finally, coming back to Glivec, it is important to note that since 2002, Novartis has provided more than 22,000 patients in 81 countries with this cancer medicine at no cost. Currently, about 7,100 Indian patients receive Glivec free from Novartis, representing 99% of those taking the treatment in India. In view of the above facts, the statements that Novartis is providing Glivec to poor Indian cancer patients probably for “publicity reasons”, and that there are no “other drugs given by them (Novartis) free of cost to poor people”, are obviously based on erroneous suppositions.
Atul Shah, director, NCLCA, Mumbai