THE BUSINESS LINE,
'Compulsory licensing for drugs augurs well for India'
NEW DELHI, June 2 - AFTER the success of the
Doha Declaration, where public health was put above trade
concerns - another significant development has been achieved
at the World Health Assembly (WHA) recently held in Geneva,
with governments agreeing to allow patents to be over-run,
in the event of a public health emergency.
The Union Health Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj,
told presspersons that the contentious issue - of putting
public health above Intellectual Property Right concerns,
in case of emergencies - had made significant progress at
the WHA, with member-countries agreeing that governments
could invoke compulsory licencing provisions to make medicines
available in their countries, in the interest of public
A compulsory licence allows a company, other
than the original patent holder of a medicine, to produce
the same drug, but on the payment of a royalty to the patent
The US had stood isolated on this issue at
World Trade Organisation meetings, raising concerns on the
definition of a public health emergency and what conditions
would trigger the compulsory licensing provision.
The US had sought to keep the public health
emergencies profile as a list of 15-odd diseases.
"It is not possible to keep a list of diseases.
Three months ago, who had heard of a public health crises
called SARS," she said, replying to a query from Business
Line. "Now, individual governments would be able to decide
what is a public health emergency and invoke compulsory
licensing and this will be monitored and supervised by the
Director-General, WHO," she said.
Meanwhile, on the recently adopted global
treaty on tobacco, she said that member countries would
now have to sign and ratify the treaty. In India, rules
are being framed for the Tobacco Control Act and different
provisions will be notified separately, but "within a reasonable
period of time," she added.