New Delhi: Ahead of discussions on the long-stalled EU-India free trade agreement (FTA) on 12 April in Brussels, international charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has flagged concerns on the possible effects that the intellectual property (IP) provisions proposed in the negotiations could have on the supply of quality assured generic medicines.

A leaked draft of the agreement, which has been under discussion, pushes for proposals from the EU that would impose higher standards of IP protection and enforcement on India than required by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

MSF provides emergency medical assistance to people in distress in more than 70 countries. With the discussions likely to begin on Wednesday, Els Torreele, executive director, MSF Access Campaign has written to Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner, Trade, European Commission raising concerns about the detrimental effects of proposed IP provisions proposed in the negotiations. MSF has called on EU to prioritize public health interests by removing and rejecting harmful intellectual property rules that will put millions of lives at risk.

“As talks start, MSF remains concerned today and would like to reiterate the importance of a moratorium on the introduction of TRIPS-plus measures and of completely removing additional enforcement provisions from the FTA negotiations," reads the letter. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

MSF and the Networks of People Living With HIV highlighted that there are certain provisions that put the timely entry of generic competition at risk, including patent term extensions and data sensitivity. “A range of IP enforcement provisions which go beyond the requirement of WTO TRIPS agreement have been proposed by the EC and remain on the negotiating table. The EUs proposals that apply to pharmaceutical patents include a stricter injunction system, a third party liability regime and boarder measures," added the letter.

The MSF has suggested removing the border measures from the FTA negotiations. “Patents, test data and civil trademark disputes should be completely excluded from the scope of enforcement provisions," the letter further read.

MSF’s concern is based on an EC report published in February. According to the MSF, the report criticized India’s criteria for patentability, compulsory licensing and revocation of patents under the Patents Act.

“The World Trade Organization’s intellectual property rules often stand in the way of MSF’s ability to have access to the medical innovations needed for our programs in an affordable way, from safer and more easy-to-use antiretroviral medicines for HIV, to new drugs that improve treatment outcomes for drug-resistant tuberculosis, the recent breakthrough cures for Hepatitis-C, and new lifesaving vaccines that protect kids from pneumonia. Given our past experiences, we remain concerned that the EU-India trade agreement will be used as a platform to push for excessive intellectual property measures that will further jeopardize India’s ability to produce and supply affordable generic products. Spiraling drug prices prevent people from accessing the lifesaving medicines they need, causing preventable misery and deaths, and impacting governments’ abilities to effectively address global public health challenges. We call on the EU to live up to its commitment to prioritize public health interests by removing and rejecting harmful intellectual property rules that will put millions of lives at risk," said Els Torreele.

Concerned about the negotiations, Leena Menghaney of MSF Access Campaign said, “The European Commission committed to not pursue the issue of patent term extension any longer in the negotiations, and to ensure that the FTA will not require India to introduce any kind of data exclusivity provisions. We encourage the current negotiators to maintain this red line to ensure that TRIPS-plus measures, which are detrimental to public health and access to affordable medicines, are not part of the negotiations".

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