WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (AFP) - US law and AIDS experts on Friday urged the
Indian parliament to reject an executive order that will curb India's ability
to sell cheap copies of the newest drugs for the world's poorest patients.
The Indian parliament will debate the new December 26 order, which changed
its laws to put India in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on
intellectual property rights.
Until its new rule, the South Asian giant had not recognized international
drug patents, thereby leaving its pharmaceutical industry with a
half-million-strong workforce free to copy foreign products.
India is the world's third-biggest producer and prime exporter of generic
drugs, which are cheaper than drugs sold under patent.
The experts said the Indian parliament should either amend the order or let
it die when it expires after six months in order to take time to revise it and
"Hundreds of millions of lives are at stake," said Brook Baker, a law
professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and a policy
adviser to the Health Global Access Project, an activist organization seeking
worldwide access to HIV/AIDS treatment.
"People need access to the newest medicine," Baker said. "This ordinance
cannot and should not stand."
The new ordinance could hurt public health programs in Africa, a continent
plagued by AIDS cases, experts said.
"This is really about our ability to get these life-saving medicines in the
mouths of people that urgently need them," said Paul Zeitz, executive director
of US-based Global AIDS Alliance.
African and Indian activists, along with AIDS organizations, will hold a
rally Saturday in front of India's embassy in Washington to show solidarity
with similar protests to be held in India.