India, China to oppose barriers to affordable drugs

India, China and other members of the BRICS group of countries have agreed to stand together to oppose any moves by developed nations to tighten Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) rules that could threaten access to affordable drugs in developing countries, officials said on Tuesday following two days of talks.

China had also agreed to look into India's requests to expedite the registration process for Indian pharmaceutical companies seeking to enter the China market, officials said, with growing momentum among the BRICS countries to expand trade in pharmaceuticals and reduce reliance on more expensive Western drugs.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said health ministers from the BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — who held their first meeting here on Monday, would oppose moves by Western countries to tighten IPR measures, which developing countries say will pose barriers to access to affordable generic drugs. “Over a period of time, some multinationals and big companies have realised that… there are countries like India making affordable drugs, and these countries are supplying medicines across the globe,” Mr. Azad told reporters.

In a speech at the BRICS health ministers' meeting on Monday, Mr. Azad said collaboration between BRICS countries “opens significant opportunities of lobbying for and leveraging a global health agenda for universal access” to affordable healthcare.

In talks with China's Health Minister Chen Zhu on Tuesday, Mr. Azad called on China to hasten the registration process for Indian pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Chen, Indian officials said, noted he was aware of the benefits of Indian drugs and their cost-competitiveness.

Mr. Azad said his Brazilian counterpart Alexandre Padilha had acknowledged the importance of Indian drugs in helping tackle HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Brazil.

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