India's Lower House of Parliament Passes Bill That Would Prohibit Production of Generic Versions of Patented Drugs
March 23, 2005
India's lower house of parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that would change the country's patent laws to prohibit the domestic production of low-cost, generic versions of patented drugs, including antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports (Gupta, Reuters, 3/22). India's generic drug industry has made less-expensive medications available in India and abroad for more than 30 years, making it possible for many people in developing countries to receive treatment. India, which is the third-largest producer and a major exporter of generic drugs, previously did not recognize international patents, allowing the country to produce generic versions of medications patented in other countries as long as they use a different manufacturing process. However, the bill would change India's laws to bring it in line with a World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual property that it signed in 1994. Legal experts and AIDS advocates have asked parliament to reject the order or allow it to expire in six months so that it can be revised (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/22). The Indian government, which introduced the bill in parliament on Friday, says that recognizing patents is a necessary precondition for the nation's drug industry to pursue additional drug research and development and attract foreign investors, according to Reuters (Reuters, 3/22). The bill received approval after the government accepted amendments by "left-wing" allies to curb "potential abuses" by multinational companies, such as extending the duration of their patents and gaining dominance over India's market, the Financial Times reports (Jack/Johnson, Financial Times, 3/23). The bill must be passed by India's upper house of parliament to become law (BBC News, 3/22).
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