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NHRC seeks report on generic medicines

Graphic: Pills on a table

The Commission wants to ensure that people are not prevented from accessing affordable medicines.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the government to respond to reports that it gave verbal assurances to turn down compulsory license applications to produce generic versions of drugs patented by U.S. firms.

The assurance, if true, could restrain access to affordable life saving drugs, the Commission said in a statement.

Recent media reports have claimed that the government has given 'private reassurance' that the Indian Patent Office would take a more restrained approach in handing out compulsory licenses for drugs patented by American pharmaceutical companies.

The Commission has called for reports on the matter within two weeks from the secretaries of the commerce and health ministries, according to the human rights body.

"Providing an affordable healthcare system is a basic bounden duty of any Government," the Commission said.

"Reportedly, at least two applications for compulsory licenses to domestically produce generic versions of drugs patented in America were rejected last year.

"NHRC has observed that the contents of the press reports, if true, raise questions impinging upon right to health of citizens in India."

The Commission also noted that, according to media reports on 7 and 8 March 2016, a compulsory license was granted to an Indian company, for the first time, to manufacture a drug to cure kidney and liver cancer, whose patent was with a U.S. company.

This drug was being sold by the Indian company for Rs.8,800/- as against Rs.2,80,000/- charged by the U.S. company. The challenge made against this did not succeed even though pursued up to the Supreme Court.

Date: 2 April 2016

Source: National Human Rights Commission of India

Image credits

  1. Pills on a table - Ragesoss, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1XFT5Ix