Why India is Being Called the Pharmacy of the Developing World
India is the largest producer of generic medicines in the world. These cheap, generic medicines help millions of people across the world get affordable, high-quality medication. Most developing nations have difficulty in delivering affordable high quality medicines. The following are the reason for India being called the pharmacy of the developing world.
- The patent laws, which were not in conformation to global standards till 2005 encouraged reverse engineering to manufacture low cost generic drugs. India drug manufacturers were the first to market low-cost versions of life-saving cancer (Imatinib) and HIV drugs (Zidovudine) within a few years of their US launch. Competition among generic producers in India resulted in a price reduction for medicines of Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases.
- Access to affordable HIV treatment from India is one of the greatest success stories in medicine. India is the world’s primary source of affordable HIV medicines as it has the capacity to quickly produce newer HIV drugs as generics. Governments of developing countries have also initiated HIV treatment programmes using generically produced medicines from India. These programmes benefit more than 15 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
- The recombinant Hepatitis B vaccine is an excellent example of one of India’s low-cost medicines. Today, India is a main supplier of vaccines to UNICEF and to the Ministries of Health in numerous countries.
- In 2005, India adopted a strict medicines patent law that, while allowing patent protection for new pharmaceutical compounds, makes it tougher to get a patent on new forms of existing medicines. The law was designed with the objective of stopping drug giants from indulging in ‘evergreening,’ an unfortunately common and abusive patenting practice in the pharmaceutical industry. It is aimed at filing and then obtaining separate patents — referred to as ‘secondary patents’ — relating to different aspects of the same medicine. Such patents are routinely granted in the US and other countries, but India chose to prioritize access to medicines over the business interests of the pharmaceutical industry. In contrast to India’s stricter patentability criteria, the U.S. allows the practice of ‘evergreening’ that helps delay generic competition and keeps prices high. It is a common tactic by which the pharmaceutical industry extends their monopoly on drugs beyond the original patent’s 20 years.This public health approach to setting strict patent standards is in line with international trade rules and encourages timely entry of affordable generics into the market, driving prices down.
- The prices of medicines in the United States are one of the highest in the world because US laws and policies blindly favor pharmaceutical companies over the generic competition, allowing multiple and extended monopolies on the same medicine, leading to exorbitant prices for lengthy periods of time. The patent policy of India supports generic competition and affordable medicines for people and governments in developing countries.