I am writing the second part of one of my previous posts titled Patents versus Patients! after a long time. The Indian courtrooms are witnessing a series of battles that are going to determine the fate of millions of Earthlings around the world. It is a war between those who want to kill millions of people by denying them life-saving medicines and those who want to save millions of lives. It is a war between the greed of a few and the lives of millions of Earthlings. In short, it is a war between evil and good! Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind about which side I support in this war that may lead to more deaths than the Second World War if the killers win.
The right to life is a fundamental Human Right . . . so is the right to access life-saving medicines . . .
First, I shall include a press release from the team of noble international life-savers, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors without Borders) below:
The Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (INP+), the Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+), and the Lawyers’ Collective HIV/AIDS Unit officially submitted their opposition to a patent application filed in the Kolkata patent office by Glaxo Group Limited for Combivir, a fixed-dose combination of two AIDS drugs (zidovudine/lamivudine, or AZT/3TC). The opposition is based on technical and health grounds. If India grants a patent on this AIDS drug, it will set a precedent that will hamper access to affordable AIDS medicines worldwide.
“Affordable generic AIDS medicines have been one of the cornerstones of our ability to keep more people alive, including here in India where we began treating people with AIDS this year,” said Dr. Pehrolov Pehrson, of MSF’s treatment project in Manipur, where all patients on antiretrovirals receive generics produced in India. “Without a reliable supply of low cost AIDS drugs – made possible because medicines patents did not exist in India for many years – national governments and treatment providers alike will be faced with an uphill battle, and patients risk having vital treatment interrupted or priced out of their reach.”
Of the over 60,000 patients in nearly 30 countries in MSF projects, 84% receive generic AIDS medicines made in India. Over 90% of all patients using AZT/3TC in MSF projects are on generic versions of the drug. National treatment programmes in India, Burkina Faso, Mongolia, Central African Republic, Malawi, Peru, the Republic of Kyrgizstan, Cambodia, Ukraine and Swaziland heavily rely on generic AZT/3TC. The availability of affordable quality generic versions of Combivir (AZT/3TC) and other anti-retroviral medicines has allowed developing countries to put more people on treatment and thus extend their lives.
The Indian groups opposing the patent are arguing that Glaxo’s Combivir (AZT/3TC) is not a new invention but simply the combination of two existing drugs. They say the granting of such a patent risks increasing the cost of anti-retroviral treatment for many people living with HIV/AIDS, thereby further increasing the burden on developing countries already struggling to treat patients.
“Universal Access to AIDS medicines will remain an elusive goal if there isn’t a steady supply of affordable medicines. Decisions made by Indian patent offices are a question of life or death for people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide who rely on the availability of these drugs made in India,” said Ellen ‘t Hoen, Director of Policy Advocacy at MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
Last year, India changed its patent law to comply with the World Trade Organization’s patent rules. Three weeks ago, India granted its first ever patent to Roche for a hepatitis C treatment.
However, the Indian Patent law allows oppositions to a patent application before it is granted. Indian cancer patients and generic drug manufacturers recently opposed a Novartis patent application for Gleevec (Imatinib Mesylate), an anti-cancer drug, on the grounds that the application claimed a new form of an old drug. The patent was subsequently rejected by the patent office. Petitioners are now demanding that the Combivir patent application be rejected on similar grounds.
Here is a part of another press release that shows how people are being blinded by denying them access to affordable medicines:
Many patients with advanced HIV/AIDS can fall prey to the infection, cytomegalovirus (CMV) which will if untreated, lead to total and irreversible blindness in a very short space of time – sometimes just weeks.Blindness caused by CMV is preventable, but the most available treatments are invasive and far from ideal – injections directly into the affected eye or intravenous, twice-daily treatment requiring a long stay in hospital.There is a better medicine available – an oral medication, valganciclovir, produced by Roche. This drug is patented in China and the company charges US$ 10,000 for a four-month supply – simply too expensive for the vast majority of people most at risk of going blind. It’s a similar situation in both India and Thailand – both middle- income countries where the product is patented. While the manufacturer offers discounts to the poorest countries – mainly in sub-Saharan Africa – middle-income countries including China are offered no such discount and are charged the same as wealthy countries.Dr. Peter Saranchuk has worked in China in both of MSF’s HIV projects – in Nanning and the recently closed XiangFan project treating patients with HIV/AIDS. He describes his experiences in treating CMV and the frustration of seeing patients suffer because the best medicines are unaffordable.
My previous post Patients versus Patients! focussed on one Swiss company Novartis. Here is another Swiss company, F Hoffman-La Roche that seems to have been involved in a shady deal to obtain a patent in India. A case is going to be filed in the Madras(Chennai) High Court against the violation of fundamental rights as well as the weakened patent law.
Here is the link to another battle that is taking place in the Indian courtrooms, this time between the Brazilian AIDS advocacy group ABIA (Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association) and the Indian NGO SAHARA (Centre for Residential Care & Rehabilitation) on one side and the American firm Gilead Sciences on the other.
Also, take a look at this link to an interesting discussion from the XVI International AIDS Conference.
It is clear from all these links that the Indian courts have become the battleground in a war which will determine the fate of millions of humans around the world. The evil forces will use the dirtiest tricks to succeed in their nefarious designs of killing people by denying them access to life-saving medicines and deriving pleasure in watching them suffer and die. They are true sadists! Shame on them!
(To be continued)