No private assurance to pharma firms: Govt

The government has denied that it “privately assured [pharmaceutical companies] that it will not issue any more compulsory license.” The clarification came in the wake of media reports that private assurances have been made to the American advocacy group, the US-India Business Council (USIBC).

“There have been recent media reports that the government of India has privately assured that it will not issue any more compulsory license,” an official release said on Wednesday. “It is hereby clarified that such reports are factually incorrect. In this regard, it may be noted that India has a well-established TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] compliant legislative, administrative, and judicial framework to safeguard IPRs. Under the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement Public Health, each member has the right to grant compulsory licenses and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licenses are granted.”

The USIBC reportedly made the private-assurance comments in its submission to the US Trade Representative (USTR). It may be recalled that India is on the USTR’s “priority watch” list for two years. The USTR is of the opinion that India’s patent regime is unfairly tilted in favor of local drug makers. Like multinational drug-makers, the USTR also regards “compulsory licences” with suspicion.

India, however, sticks to its stand on patents. Its release said, “Even as government of India is conscious of the need to spur innovation and protect individual rights, it retains the sovereign right to utilize the flexibilities provided in the international IPR regime It may be noted that to date, there has been only one case of compulsory license in India and that too after a well-thought out and laid down process, which was subsequently upheld right up to the highest court of the land.”