Volume 6, No. 1, January 2005


Fight Back the Proposed New Patent Act


On Jan.1 2005 the Indian government is all set to introduce the disastrous new patent act. This Act will not only facilitate the further sky-rocketing of drug prices, it will act to wipe out thousands of small scale pharmaceutical industries.

It was in 1994 when the WTO came into being that the then Indian government agreed to drastically amend the 1970 Patent Act within a 10-year period as per the agreement set forth in the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) deadline. It is said that this TRIPS agreement was basically drawn up by the US phar-maceutical companies, in which just one company, Pfizer, played a major role.

The process of capitulation to imperialist interests took place between 1987 and 1994 through which the WTO agreement was negotiated. In 1993 a Rajya Sabha Committee viewed with concern the "grave impact of the proposed patent act …. On drug prices in the country". Also the report of the Arjun Singh Committee in the early 1990s remained confidential and never came out in the open. The First Patents Amendment Act was passed in 1999, followed by the Second Amendment Act in 2002. It is these changes that facilitated the massive increase in the price of drugs over these years. The recent disclosure in the Economic Times (Dec. 9 2004) indicates the extent to which this facilitated the loot of the masses and profiteering of the pharmaceutical companies. The ET reported that on three commonly used drugs the NNPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) showed that the companies paid retail margins of about 1000%. The three drugs were Nimesulide (anti-inflammatory pain-killer), Cetrizine (anti-allergy) and Omeprazol (for ulcers). This shows to what extent the public is being fleeced. 20 companies have been named for this massive over-pricing including the well-known ones like Wockhardt, Cipla, Ranbaxy, Lupin and Zydus Cadilla.

Now, the Third Amendment Bill of 2003 is being rushed through without discussion or changes. If not passed by Jan1, 2005 India can face WTO retaliation. From 1994 to 2005 a large number of foreign companies filed anticipatory claims under the "mail box" procedure, which will flower into full-fledged patents on Jan.1 2005. In other words, these TNCs took aou patents which was not effective in India; but which will now come into force once the new patent act comes in. So companies manufacturing such drugs will have to cease manufacture on Jan 1 2005. It is only the big companies, like Ranbaxy, that have filed for hundreds of patents that will be able to make use of the new legislations and partake in the TNC onslaught. It is estimated that because of this new Act roughly 25,000 small scale pharmaceutical companies will face closure, thereby throwing thousands out of jobs.

So the new patent act will have disastrous impact on the country. It will result in thousands of closures and job-losses. And it will push drug prices even higher making it absolutely unavailable to the common masses. Ofcourse, the TNC giants and their compradors ‘Indian’ counterparts will enhance their profits ten-fold.





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