interview | James Packard Love Hyderabad

‘Compulsory licence must to make drugs affordable’

Terms negotiated at RCEP are no better than before: James Love

His leaks in 2016 had set the tone for protests against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). With the nineteenth round of negotiations over the free trade agreement just concluding in Hyderabad, James Packard Love says the terms being negotiated are no better than before.

Love’s organisation, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), is opposed to terms that some countries are believed to be pushing in the Intellectual Property chapter of RCEP. The concern is, if those terms are finalised and binding on the partners in the agreement, medication could become expensive and access to them highly restricted.

“The Doha declaration says countries can implement their obligations under the TRIPS agreement in a manner that promotes medicines for all. RCEP runs counters to it. If you force more patent restriction on low income countries, it would make it impossible to have medicines for all,” he said.

The Doha Declaration on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and Public Health was adopted in 2001. The declaration was necessitated to interpret the TRIPS agreement as it was seen by nations as a hurdle to public health. Following the declaration, countries, including India, were empowered to issue compulsory licenses to make available patented drugs through generics for life-threatening diseases at low cost. India has thus far issued only one compulsory license for a patented drug in 2012. Love was called to give evidence in the matter.

“We were thrilled that the application for compulsory license for the cancer drug went through right away. My role in the case was to say that $ 65,000 price-tag of the drug was not affordable in India. The court agreed with that,” he said claiming that pressure from other countries including the US, prevented India from issuing more compulsory licenses.

At the heart of Love’s argument to make drugs cheaper and universally available is a two-pronged approach. Countries should issue more compulsory licenses to bring down the cost of patented drugs. Second, he advocates de-linking research and development from the cost of drug production and profits.

A high-panel of the United Nations Secretary General had suggested something similar, while recognising the dual problems of lack of innovation and access to healthcare.

Last year, KEI uploaded an October 2015 draft of the RCEP’s IP Chapter and alleged that Japan and Korea were pushing anti-consumer measures which would deepen drug monopolies. Love believes those portions of the agreement have not been revised.

“From all the indications I have had from people who are talking to negotiators, there remain a lot of unresolved issues. Everything from research exceptions, to issues of patent extension and data exclusivity has not been resolved,” he said. He also wondered about unprecedented secrecy and lack of transparency around the talks, while claiming that nothing about the negotiations, including the names negotiators of the 16 partner nations, is publicly known.

In the broader context of intellectual property rights, Love also questions the need for an IP Chapter in RCEP. “Rights owners can bring disputes at WTO. The multitude of fora created makes it difficult to monitor all the agreements.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 1:02:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/compulsory-licence-must-to-make-drugs-affordable/article19388190.ece

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