International aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said India should not cave in to the continuing corporate pressure to stop supplying affordable, generic medicines to millions of people in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
The call was made on the sidelines of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first state visit to South Africa.
South Africa imports the highest volume of its medicines from India – including life-saving antiretrovirals for HIV, and treatments for a wide range of other diseases.
“We urge Prime Minister Modi to defend India’s lifeline to South Africa and developing countries through affordable versions of new medicines. India should reject efforts that undermine, weaken or eliminate critically-important public health safeguards from its laws,” said Claire Waterhouse, MSF Access Campaign Advocacy Officer in Southern Africa
The cost of anti-retroviral drugs significantly dropped since 2001 when India began competing in the anti-retroviral drug market, making access to these life-saving drugs much easier for developing countries
But big drug manufacturers in the United States and Europe are not happy with these flexibilities of the country’s patent laws.
According to reports, an aggressive lobbying effort by pharmaceutical interests pushed Congress and the White House to put mounting pressure on India to change its patent laws.
MSF says Medicines made in India are a vital lifeline for its medical humanitarian operations and millions of people in developing countries.
“Medicines from India have enabled MSF, government and other treatment providers to dramatically scale up HIV treatment access in South Africa. India’s global pharmacy also has an important role to play in providing affordable prices for newer medicines for TB, hepatitis and other devastating diseases,” said Waterhouse.
MSF says India’s commitment to cooperate on ensuring access to affordable medicines, and to foster innovation that addresses public health needs of developing countries must be taken forward and matched with actions to protect the health of millions of Africans.