March 24th, 2005
Criticism for Indian patent bill info
| SourceBBC News |
Police in Kenya have stopped hundreds of people living with HIV and Aids from demonstrating at the Indian High Commission in Nairobi.
The protests, also planned in Uganda and Tanzania, are over an Indian draft law which may block poor countries' access to anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
According to WTO rules, India is obliged to protect and enforce drug patents from the start of this year.
This will stop routine generic drug production, protesters say.
The production has led to major reductions in the cost of ARV medicines, as well as other medicines that treat other diseases affecting millions of people in developing countries.
Message for India
Some protesters gathered in Nairobi's Uhuru Park, singing to console themselves after the police banned their planned demonstration through the town to the Indian High Commission.
These are $20 a month as compared to $395 for [patented] products
The Aids victims, accompanied by some members of various pressure groups, said it was necessary to let Kenyans know that they may soon not be able to afford medicine in Kenya because of India and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
James Kamau, a self-declared HIV-positive patient, showed me some of his Indian-manufactured ARV drugs.
"These are $20 a month as compared to $395 for [patented] products," he said.
The police agreed to escort representatives of the protesters to the high commission to hand over their letter of protest.
'Let us protest'
They want India to ignore what they termed "WTO dictatorship", by which India is obliged to observe patents according to its rules on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.
Although they eventually presented their letter to the high commission, the group complained that they should have been allowed to demonstrate.
They said it was sad that although the government admitted that between 500 and 700 people died in the country daily from Aids-related diseases, it was not ready to give them a chance to express their opinion.
The Indian parliament will discuss amendments to the country's Patent Act of 1970 in the next few weeks.
If the amendment is passed manufacturers of generic drugs in India, where Kenya gets most of its ARVs, will pay some commissions to originators of the drugs for a period of 20 years.
| Source:BBC News |
International aid groups have strongly criticised a move by the lower house of India's parliament to pass a new patents law.
It prevents domestic drug manufacturers from making low-cost generic copies of patented drugs.
Campaigners say the move will deprive millions of people around the world of access to cheap life-saving medicines.
"Because India is one of the world's biggest producers of generic drugs, this law will have a severe knock-on effect on many developing countries which depend on imported generic drugs from India," said Samar Verma, regional policy adviser of British charity Oxfam
The France-based Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi, president of India's governing Congress party, highlighting its concern.
"We are deeply disturbed and concerned that you are failing to listen to the voices of your people who have entrusted you with their welfare," it said.