Showing posts with label patents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label patents. Show all posts

Friday, March 01, 2013

Patents or Patients

When HIV/Aids took hold around the world and antiretroviral (ARV) drugs became available from 1987, the  drug treatments required then cost $15,000 a year, which very clearly limited their use to well-insured or relatively rich western patients. Prices for AZT3 officially started at $25 per pill in South Africa. Although HIV/Aids was the scourge of Africa in the 1980s, its management ad treatment was initially completely out of reach of  those hit by "slim" disease as it was then known as locallywho were just expected to go away and die. And millions, denied medication, did die. An estimated 10 million people perished between 1996 and 2003 thanks to denial of drugs by Big Pharma. And all the while the medicines were just sitting there ... out of the financial reach of the inflicted. Big Pharma was quite happy to see millions of deaths in order to keep patent law - and its profits.

 Thanks to India's 1970 patent law, drugs could be made to the highest technical standards (a fact often denied by a propaganda campaign of the western drugs companies) .The Pfizer patent for fluconazole (used for treating Aids-related fungal infections) in South Africa was deliberately broken by importing it from India. The price per capsule in South Africa stood at $40, while in Asia it was 5 cents. With Africa hosting two-thirds of the world’s HIV/Aids cases, this kind of action made an impact politically. In 2000, Yusuf Hamied’s Cipla generic pharmaceuticals company agreed to produce  a three-ARV combination that would cost patients $1 a day - at $350 a year this was less than a 40th of the cost demanded by western drugs companies.

Big Pharma's argues the expense of its products is due to development costs: in fact, marketing budgets in drugs companies are very much higher than those for research and development, which averages a risory 1.3% of expenditure across top pharmaceutical companies. In fact, 84% of research and development worldwide is carried out by government and public bodies, whereas pharmaceutical companies contribute only 12% and account for only three out of every 10 new drugs invented.

 The Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, Michel SidibĂ©, said “It is outrageous that in 2013, when we have all the tools we need to beat this epidemic, 1.7 million people still die each year because they cannot access treatment.”

Now with India’s government adopted the WTO’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) patent regulations it may well be all over for generic medicines. The pharmaceutical companies will be able to continue to grossly overprice its drugs. People are going to die needlessly once again.