London, Feb. 4: The chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the world's second-biggest drugs company, today issued a blunt warning to India ' stop cheating by making 'counterfeit' drugs or else investments will be cut off.
A spokesman for GSK acknowledged that the warning by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Garnier, delivered at a meeting of business leaders in London, was 'strident'.
Garnier's speech, Globalisation and the Rise of India and China, was given at the Enterprise Conference hosted by the British chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown.
Asked if this wasn't simply another example of a rich western firm trying to protect its huge profits by making it harder for cheap medicines being made available to poor people, the spokesman argued that though there was a point here, counterfeit drugs were being sold to the well-off.
The World Health Organisation estimates that fake medicines account for 10 per cent of all medicines sold worldwide, costing the drugs industry $46 billion a year.
It was pointed out that GSK spends '3 billion a year on research and development alone.
The GSK spokesman said the company now has 'its own operation in Delhi', and also a research and development collaboration with Ranbaxy, India's largest drugs company.
GSK India has a 5.6 per cent share of the Indian market.
The gist of Garnier's message was that unless India respected western intellectual property, the West would do some serious damage to the country's ambition to be a big global player.
In this, Garnier may find a friend in the British chancellor, who wants to cancel Third World debts with a new Marshall plan, but who also speaks menacingly about the 'challenge' to Britain posed by the rise of India.
Garnier, 57, who lives in America, wants the UK government to demand further reform of copyright laws in India as a condition of British investment in the country.
In advance of his speech today, Garnier told The Times: 'If China and India would give us true protection on our pharmaceuticals, we would have bigger investments there. Frankly, at the moment we are holding off a bit.'
An Indian source said the contents of Garnier's speech would be sent to the commerce ministry. 'But we are not particularly bothered. India has done what it can. If he doesn't want to invest, let him go to hell, yaar.'
From January 1, India has introduced a patent protection system, which Garnier acknowledged.