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Sunday, 16 March 2014

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Cheaper generic medicines - a matter of life and death

Of all the issues being negotiated in the trans-pacific partnership - none are more important than life-saving medicines at affordable prices.

by Martin Khor

If you or some family members or friends suffer from cancer, hepatitis, AIDS, asthma or other serious ailments, it's worth your while to follow the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.

It's really a matter of life and death. For the TPPA can cut off the potential supply of cheaper generic life-saving medicines, especially when the branded products are priced so sky-high that very few can afford them.

The fight for cheaper medicines has moved to cancer and other deadly diseases, when once the controversy was over AIDS medicines.

Recently, a cancer specialist in New Zealand (one of the TPPA counties) warned that the TPPA would prolong the high cost of treating breast cancer because of new rules to protect biotechnology-based cancer drugs from competition from generics.

And this will affect the lives of cancer patients. Some cancer medicines can cost a patient over US$100,000 for a year's treatment, way above what an ordinary family can afford. But generic versions could be produced for a fraction, making it possible for patients to hope for a reprieve from death.

In India, local companies are leading the fight to make medicines more affordable to thousands suffering from breast, kidney, liver and gastro-intestinal cancer and chronic leukeamia. For example, an Indian company produced a generic drug for kidney and liver cancer 30 times cheaper than the branded product - $140 versus $4,580 for a month's treatment - after it was given a compulsory license.

India has a patent law that disallows patents for newer forms of drugs or known substances unless it improves the medicine's efficacy or effectiveness. Under WTO rules, countries are free to set their own standards for novelty, or whether a product is novel enough to be eligible for a patent.

- Third World Network Features

 

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