Ministry of Health and Family Welfare11-July, 2011 17:49 IST
BRICs meet hails India’s Contribution to Affordable Drugs Availability

Cannot Let Trade Barriers Stand in Way of Equitable, Affordable Public Health Services: Azad

International agencies - WHO &UNAIDS and BRICS Health Ministers have applauded India's role in making quality, safe and effective drugs more accessible and affordable globally. At the meeting held in Beijing today, they were unanimous in their praise for the pool of talented scientists available in India, its strength in basic and pure sciences and its capacity for innovation. The forum said they were certain that India's contribution to global public health agenda is only set to grow due to its citizens and leadership.

In her address, DG, WHO Dr. Margaret Chan singled out India's effort when she stated that when African countries wanted a meningococcal vaccine at a cost of not more than 50 cents, it was the Serum Institute of India which came forward and did the job. “All the major manufacturers of the world were approached by WHO but could not meet the cost criteria, which was critical for the African countries. The supply of this vaccine by India has saved hundreds and thousand of lives in low & middle income African countries, where a person contracting meningitis often means 4-5 months of a household's income” she said.

ED, UNAIDS Mr Michel Sidibe said that the BRICS countries have more than one third of the total HIV positive cases in the world. “Their lives are much better with quality, safe and efficacious Anti-Retro Viral Therapy (ART) drugs being supplied by India at a fraction of the cost at which they were being supplied previously” Mr Sidibe added.

Addressing the gathering the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad said that BRICS collaboration opens up significant opportunities of leveraging a global health agenda for universal access to affordable health care products and services of assured quality. “We need to collectively address the issue of trade barriers which restrict access to newly developed and future medicines” he said. “BRICS countries were already instrumental in the development of the Doha Declaration and can now play a leadership role in supporting other countries, ensuring that bilateral and regional trade agreements do not undermine TRIPS flexibilities, Shri Azad added. “We must guard against the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) through the proposed Anti Counterfeiting Task Force (ACTA) which will deter generic competition”, the Minister emphasised. We cannot, therefore, let trade barriers and concerns for individual profiteering stand in the way of equitable and affordable public health services, Shri Azad stated.

The text of Shri Azad’s speech at the BRICS meeting is as follows:

“I feel very privileged to be with you all on this very historic day that marks the coming together, on a common platform, of health leaders from four different continents.

I would at the very outset like to thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China and His Excellency Chen Zhu, Hon’ble Minister of Health, in particular, for hosting this meeting and for its wonderful organisation in this beautiful city of Beijing. This meeting is indeed a momentous occasion not only for the reason that we represent 40 % of the world’s population but also because as health ministers we give voice to their public health aspirations and join hands to collectively achieve them.

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to recount two milestone dates which collectively symbolise all that, we, the Health Ministers stand for. The first date was 22nd of July 1946, almost sixty-five years ago, when the World Health leaders adopted the WHO constitution in New York stating their commitment to provide for the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health of every human being without distinction of race, religion, and political belief, economic or social condition as one of the fundamental rights.

The world has travelled a long way in the realisation of this goal. Many a battle has been fought. Victory was indeed comprehensive in those that we fought collectively. Concerted action by nations against disease and suffering is the only way forward if we are to make any meaningful impact in the domain of public health.

It is in this context that I would like to bring in the another Milestone date, which was 14th April 2011 when the leaders of the BRICS nations declared in Sanya, on behalf of three billion people of the world, their firm commitment to strengthen dialogue and co-operation in the fields of social protection, decent work, gender equity, youth, and public health, including the fight against HIV/AIDS.

It is my firm belief that, our coming together on a common platform today will help, not only our peoples, but the world at large fight many more battles against diseases that afflict humanity and also to win them. I say this because BRICS countries are uniquely and strategically positioned to enhance collaboration among themselves and with developing countries with their sizeable pharmaceutical, vaccine and health technology industries.

Permit me to remind your Excellencies that our countries now provide over 70% of all vaccines purchased by procurement agencies. Similarly, India is the third largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the world (after US and Japan) in terms of volume and 13th largest in terms of value. Indian pharmaceutical products are exported to almost all the countries of the world. The total export from India for the year 2009-10 was approximately 10 billion US dollars. Indian pharmaceutical products, world-wide are known to be of good quality, safety and efficacy. Indian generic drugs have helped in bringing down the cost of treatment of various diseases world-wide which includes HIV/AIDS.

The BRICS collaboration, therefore, opens up significant opportunities of leveraging a global health agenda for universal access to affordable health care products and services of assured quality. This is our strength and we must be cautious and guard against all strategic moves which impede local innovation and availability of affordable medicines. We, therefore, need to collectively address the issue of trade barriers which restrict access to newly developed and future medicines. IPR barriers, including patents and data exclusivity, cause delays in generic competition in the market, which is one of the most efficient ways to bring prices down. BRICS countries were already instrumental in the development of the Doha Declaration and can now play a leadership role in supporting other countries, ensuring that bilateral and regional trade agreements do not undermine TRIPS flexibilities. BRICS have been collaborating in the area of intellectual property, most specifically in regard to access to HIV medicines for a number of years, resulting in significant opportunities to advance public health.

Supporting other countries with the interpretation and implementation of the TRIPS safeguards would be in the interest of producers based in the BRICS countries, and create a win-win situation for the BRICS countries as well as a wide range of middle and lower income countries. We must guard against the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) through the proposed Anti Counterfeiting Task Force (ACTA) which will deter generic competition. ACTA negates the flexibilities available to the countries under the TRIPS with respect to IPRs. International agreements that interfere with the use of TRIPs flexibilities by BRICS nations and require TRIPS-plus and other measures must, therefore, be resisted.

I also believe that new initiatives must favour the broader delinking of the research and development costs of the new medicines from the consumer price and encourage research in neglected diseases for the ultimate benefit of the patients.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The BRICS nations face a number of public health challenges, including inequitable access to health services and medicines, growing health costs, infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis (TB), while also facing growing rates of non-communicable diseases. For a large number of neglected tropical diseases, new medicines need to be developed. For others, newer medicines are needed to address shortcomings of existing treatments, such as safety, efficacy and the issue of drug resistance.

Our countries are also transitioning from a high burden of acute, communicable diseases to Non Communicable Diseases. This means that large numbers of people will increasingly require life-long treatment with medicines for these chronic diseases. Competition from generic companies is the key to affordable drugs.

We cannot, therefore, let trade barriers and concerns for individual profiteering stand in the way of equitable and affordable public health services.

You would be aware of the chilling scenario that the pipeline for new drugs and antibiotics is virtually dry. Why did this happen? The answer is that the current incentive structure is inadequate to promote research and development of medicines and vaccines to address priority health problems of the developing countries. More financial resources are required to be mobilized in a sustainable way to create a strong and sustainable pipeline of new drugs.

A reorientation of research in medicines, better attuned to the world as a whole is necessary. This will require new research and financing mechanisms. For example, the Consultative Expert Working Group set up on Public Health, innovation, and intellectual property: global strategy and plan of action, could examine alternative international models for better co-ordination in research and financing of new drugs.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The strengthening of health systems in developing countries in all regions must be the central goal of the global health community. I believe that the WHO is uniquely positioned to deliver international health cooperation and technical advice. In our view, WHO has a major role to play in the promotion of access to medication and capacity-building with a view to bringing more equity to the health sector world-wide. BRICS countries can play a catalytic role therein which I believe we are already doing and must continue to do.

I know we have a long journey ahead. This journey is not going to be an easy one. But whatever progress we make will be our contribution to realisation of the dream to provide our people and the world at large the highest attainable standards of health. Let us commit ourselves to doing our very best for instituting a health care system in the world which is equitable, affordable and accessible by all sections of the society. I am sure; when we put our might together we will be able to build a world free of want and disease.

Thank you very much once again for giving me a patient hearing”
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SBS
(Release ID :73142)