With U.S Trade Representative Michael Froman set to announce a trade enforcement action tied to India, the highly influential U.S Chamber of Commerce has lashed out at India’s recent pattern of pharma patent denials, pointing out that the country’s actions “are not about access to medicine.”

In the case of Swiss drug-maker Novartis, whose cancer drug’s patent protections were dismissed by the Supreme Court, the chamber has argued that the patent revocation led to the drug actually becoming “more expensive for Indian patients.”

The chamber’s argument is part of a set of recent recommendations, which were submitted to the office of the U.S trade representative (UTSR). The recommendations are being by trade experts as a pointer to what sectors the USTR’s expected trade enforcement actions could affect.

In an indirect jab at India’s support towards generic drug-makers, the Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC) of the chamber of commerce has pointed out that in many cases, multi-national drug-makers would give away the drug for free.

“In the case of Glivec, Novartis provided the leukaemia drug to 95 per cent of patient population for free. The annual cost for Glivec generic treatment is approximately three to for times the average annual income in India,” the chamber said.

Thus, the chamber points out, it is actually “more expensive for Indian patents to obtain access to these medicines after the patent revocation than it was before”.

In its submission, the chamber has also asked that India be classified as a ‘priority foreign country’— a tag that is generally given to the worst intellectual property offenders, and is also a classification that could trigger trade sanctions.

It also warns of a possible domino effect, with other countries following India as an example of bad behaviour.

“India’s policies are clearly discriminatory, in contravention to their obligations under TRIPS (The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). In addition, other countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and even China are closely monitoring this new Indian IP model.”

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