Access to Medicines and Patents: an In-house Capacity Building

An in-house orientation on access to medicines and patents was conducted on 10 May, 2017 at Sama. The orientation began with explaining that the right to health is ingrained in the Constitution of India and is recognized by the international covenants and conventions and other international agreements. It emphasized that medicines are an integral component of right to health. It pointed out the fact that despite the right provided in law, every year large numbers of people in India are pushed into poverty by purchasing high-cost medicines. It illustrated that the cost of medicines are very intrinsically linked to the patent status of the medicines, whereby the patented medicines are extremely expensive and highly unaffordable.

Briefly discussing the history and development of patent law, an emphasis was given to the Patents Act, 1970 and how it facilitated the domestic production and helped in the growth of generic pharmaceutical industry in India. Thereafter the discussion delved upon the changes brought about by WTO (World Trade Organisation) mandated TRIPS agreement (An Agreement of Trade Related-Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) in the patent law in India. It brought out the role of international and national organization, which campaigned and advocated for the adoption of Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, 2001.

The resource person explained the issue of evergreening of patents with examples and pointed out how the pharmaceutical companies have been extending the term of patents by making minor modification to existing medicines.

The presentation elucidated that the Indian Parliament being wary of the issue of evergreening, introduced certain public health safeguards through Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005. These include section 3(d), definition of inventive step, post-grant opposition. Further, provisions such pre-grant opposition, revocation and compulsory license were retained.

The presentation concluded with a case study of the Gleevec case and the interpretation of section 3(d) by the Supreme Court.

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