The editorial “Friction over drug patents” (March 24) has highlighted the tussle between two institutions — the corporate world which needs to be profit-centric in order to exist and innovate further, and the state which has to be people-centric in order to achieve its goal of public welfare. It is the duty of the state to ensure the availability of every kind of medication for every kind of disease and at an affordable price.
The issue of patents is in itself problematic. It represents a deliberate hegemonisation of knowledge, skill and technology, a tool that developed countries use to extend their political domination across regions through economic imperialism.
There is constant pressure on developing countries to remove subsidies for health care and food, especially at a time when these countries are battling to bring down health-care costs and boost access to drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Another dangerous precedent that can seen is that private corporations in the U.S. have become so powerful that they have apparently have powers that parallel those of the state. One only has to read extensive reports on the pressure tactics applied by giant pharmaceuticals through USFDA, a government body.
The friction over drug patents is merely a symptomatic expression of an unjust, value-deficient and aggressive trade policy being pursued by many western countries in the name of free, fair and competitive trade institutionalised by the WTO. Issues pertaining to patents’ entitlement on drugs are on a different footing and demand accommodation on humane grounds. An economic regime that fails and even refuses to acknowledge its insensitivity in showing concern for a lucrative commercial deal before the struggle for survival should never be encouraged. Successive failures of WTO conferences highlight the inefficacy of selective adherence to protectionist as well as competitive regimes by western countries to suit their convenience.