The Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Commerce has just released a report by a committee set up to examine the issue of price negotiations for patented drugs. Comments are being invited from stakeholders.
The Campaign for Access to Affordable Trastuzumab is shocked that the Department of Pharmaceuticals is even considering the option of negotiating with multinational pharma companies for price discounts.
We note with concern that this report comes at a time when the Ministry of Health is actively exploring options such as compulsory licensing for bringing down prices of life-saving patented drugs through allowing market competition by generics and biosimilars. Trastuzumab is one of the drugs being considered for compulsory licensing.
This ill-timed move by the Department of Pharmaceuticals will benefit none other than big pharma companies whose patents on life-saving drugs are the main barrier in access to health for millions of Indians.
Global experience shows clearly that measures such as negotiated price reductions and “managed competition” through voluntary licenses (which usually incorporate stringent conditions to protect the interests of the originator company) do not result in any significant expansion of access, since prices continue to remain beyond the reach of most citizens.
A case in point is Brazil, which tried to use price negotiations with multi-national pharmaceutical companies to bring down the price of patented HIV drugs. As a result, the price of Efiverenz (Merck) came down to USD760 per person per year in 2003. In contrast, when Efiverenz was brought under compulsory license in 2007, the price came down to USD170 per person per year – less than one fourth the negotiated price.
Similarly, a World Bank supported process of negotiated price decreases in Central America and the Caribbean in 2002 brought prices of HIV drugs down to USD 1100-1600 per patient per year. In contrast, 10 Latin American countries independently adopted an open competition-based model involving both generic manufacturers and originator companies, resulting in prices coming down from USD 5000 to USD 400 per patient per year.
The Government of Thailand, which began issuing compulsory licences in 2007, considered and dropped the option of negotiated price reductions, noting that “Prior negotiation with the patent holders is not an effective measure and only delays the improvement in access to
patented essential medicines and puts more lives in less healthy or
even dangerous situations.”
India plays a key role as a supplier of affordable medicines to other countries in the global south. Unlike negotiated prices, which apart from being unacceptably high would apply only in India, compulsory licensing of a drug like Trastuzumab would benefit millions of people across the developing world through global marketing of cheap generic versions.
The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab urges the Government of India to follow through on the strong political will it has shown by initiating the process of compulsory licensing for Trastuzumab. With 25,000 new cases of HER2+ breast cancer being recorded every year with most patients being young women, there is no time to waste. We look forward to a speedy notification and an accelerated process to bring biosimilars of Trastuzumab into the market.
We call on our policy-makers to ensure that big pharma companies do not continue to hold our health hostage to their greed for profits.
- Link patented drug prices to per capita income: Panel #patientrights (kractivist.wordpress.com)