Call to oppose lobbying by MNCs to dilute price-control order

Former Controller-General of Patents P.H. Kurian, whose granting of compulsory licensing to Indian pharmaceutical companies led to low-cost generic cancer drugs becoming a reality in the country, said here on Saturday that public discussions should be held to influence government policy regarding drug prices.

He was speaking at a felicitation programme and seminar organised jointly by the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad and the Bankmen’s Club here.

A pamphlet ‘Indian medicine industry - a victim of globalisation’ was released on the occasion. A seminar on ‘The future of Indian Medical policy’ discussed the shift in the medical policy in the country and its impact on the common populace.

Mr. Kurian said patents which were originally meant to encourage inventors and inspire them for more inventions had now become a tool in the hands of monopolistic companies. But the Indian Patent laws had done a proper balancing of rights and obligations for the granting of patents.

“There is pressure from the multinationals to water down the Drug Price Control Order. This should be opposed. The government has the power to make available any patented medicine under the public non-commercial use licence. This has already been implemented in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Kerala has started taking steps for the same,” said Mr. Kurian.

Earlier, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kerala and public health activist B. Ekbal said that the increase in the prices of essential medicines in the country was pushing almost six crore people into the Below Poverty Line category every year.

“The draft National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2011 is now being brought back. Now, only 74 medicines are under price control. At least, 348 essential drugs which were originally under price control should be brought back to the list. But India is still the country with the most affordable medicines so much so that it is known as the pharmacy of developing countries. Our medicines have helped in AIDS control activities in Africa,” said Dr. Ekbal.

He said that multinational drug manufacturers were involving in contract research and clinical trials in India, which needed to be regulated. In Kerala, medicines should be distributed through the Medical Service Corporation outlets to solve the problems of availability and affordability, he added.

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