Unitaid Warns Against Measures to Restrict Access to Medicines in EU-India FTA

In the lead up to Free Trade Agreement (FTA) discussions during the European Union-India Summit in New Delhi on 10 February, UNITAID urges both parties to ensure that access to medicines, and particularly AIDS medicines,is not hampered by trade interests via provisions that could undermine the production, registration and availability of generic medicines. 

“This agreement coincides with a delicate time for access to treatment efforts - the suspension of grants by the Global Fund and diminishing resources for health and development,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chair of UNITAID’s Board.  “I call on the European Union – with its long human rights tradition – to safeguard the right of millions of people in developing countries to continue accessing affordable life-saving medicines produced by the Indian generic industry.” 

AIDS treatment has experienced startling progress over recent years, with almost seven million people starting treatment between 2003 and 2011, largely due to India's ability to produce low-cost, quality-assured generic medicines and to healthy competition among India's producers.  However, such provisions as data exclusivity, patent term extensions and border measures could severely legally restrict manufacturers'  ability to produce recently developed medicines and patient adapted formulations at low cost and to export those medicines to other developing countries. 

“UNITAID has been able to create and supply markets for paediatric and second-line drugs in 50 countries largely thanks to Indian generic manufacturers," said Denis Broun, UNITAID Executive Director.  "They produce high-quality products and have made remarkable efforts to make them patient-friendly at guaranteed low prices.  We are extremely concerned that attempts to restrict India’s ability to produce such medicines quickly and cheaply will have tragic consequences for global health programmes worldwide”.

One of UNITAID’s main achievements to date - that of providing child-friendly medicines to 90% of children globally on treatment for AIDS - has been made possible by India’s ability to develop these previously neglected medicines and make them available at low cost.  Since 2008, Indian-produced generics have accounted for approximately 90% of the paediatric AIDS medicines market.

Indian generic manufacturers have supplied more than 80% of donor-funded AIDS medicines to developing countries in the last eight years.  By 2008, Indian generic antiretrovirals (ARVs) accounted for 65% of the total value of ARV purchases reported, while non-Indian generic and innovator ARVs accounted for 13% and 22% of market value, respectively.  (A lifeline to treatment: the role of Indian generic manufacturers in supplying antiretroviral medicines to developing countries).