NHRC seeks report from govt on its stand on generic medicines

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New Delhi, April 2: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from Ministries of Commerce and Health on media reports that the government has restrained production of cheaper versions of generic medicines.

NHRC has taken serious view of media reports that India has given ‘private reassurance’ to US-India Business Council that its Patent Office will take a more restrained approach in handing out licences to produce cheaper versions of drugs patented with the American firms, which, allegedly, will deny the people of the country access to generic medicines at affordable prices.

“Reportedly, at least two applications for compulsory licences to produce, domestically, generic versions of drugs patented in America were rejected last year,” said an NHRC statement.

The Commission has called for reports within two weeks from the Union Ministries of Commerce and Industries as well as Health, through their Secretaries in the matter.

It has observed that the content of the reports, if true, raise questions impinging upon right to health of the citizens.

“If the government, by invoking the provisions of the Indian Patents Act grants compulsory licence to manufacture a particular drug, it would increase access to more affordable generic versions of the same bringing much-needed relief to thousands of people.

“Providing an affordable healthcare system is a basic bounden duty of any government. It is a matter of concern that two applications for grant of compulsory licence to manufacture generic medicines for treatment of diabetes and cancer were rejected last year,” it said.

According to media reports, a compulsory licence was granted to an Indian company, for the first time, to manufacture a drug to cure kidney and liver cancer, whose patent was with a US company.

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The drug was being sold by the Indian company for Rs 8,800 as against Rs 2,80,000 charged by the US company. The challenge made against this did not succeed even though pursued up to the Supreme Court.

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