The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drug firms differ on licensing policies

New Delhi, Aug. 29: Pharmaceutical companies in India are divided on the issue of compulsory licensing a concept under which intellectual property rights, or patents to be precise, are diluted to let other pharmaceutical companies make cheaper generic versions of drugs in the interest of public health in times of exigencies even as the west today rejected the move at a meeting in Geneva.

Analysts say that multinational companies, echoing the voice of pharmaceutical firms abroad, are by and large against compulsory licensing, though to be politically correct they do not reject it outright.

In Geneva today, the World Trade Organisation's 146-member general council failed to endorse an agreement in principle to ease access to cheap generic drugs for poor countries.

On their part, most Indian pharmaceutical companies find that the draft prepared by the US at Geneva, as part of the ongoing negotiations, makes it extremely difficult for Indian companies to export generic drugs to third world countries under the compulsory licensing provisions.

Indian companies can get such a licence if the concerned developing country, in Africa for instance or elsewhere do not have the facility to make the drug.

Swati Piramal, director and chief scientific officer of Nicholas Piramal India Limited, is all for compulsory licensing to ensure poor patients get medicines in times of emergencies.

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