Oxfam calls on EU not to shut down 'pharmacy of the developing world'

9th Feb 2012

On the eve of a high-level summit between the leaders of India and the European Union in Delhi, Oxfam is calling on the EU not to pressurise India into agreeing new trade rules that could deny hundreds of millions of people access to affordable medicines.

The negotiations, which have been on-going for four years, are a means for the two economies to agree on a trade pact and forge a new commercial relationship. The EU, backed by multinational pharmaceutical companies, are trying to impose new intellectual property and investment (IP) rules in India, which would result in drastically higher medicine prices for the poorest people across the globe.

Oxfam policy advisor, Rohit Malpani, said. "The summit on Friday will be closely watched to see whether the EU and India will negotiate a trade agreement which puts people's lives before the commercial interests of multinational drug companies.

"At a time of austerity and declining aid budgets, especially for health, efforts to increase medicine prices for the world's poor would be a double blow and have a devastating impact on the achievement of health-related Millennium Development Goals." 

India plays a critical role in the global medicines market, producing over two-thirds of all generic medicines; affordable versions of drugs licensed by multinational companies, which are largely sold to poor and middle income countries. Currently, over 80 per cent of all HIV and AIDS medicines are manufactured by generic companies in India, but if new trade rules are agreed the price of life-saving treatment would increase drastically*.

Oxfam India CEO, Nisha Agrawal, said. "The Indian Government - until now - has repeatedly rejected the EU demands to introduce any of the additional intellectual property rules under the free trade agreement.  We strongly support that stance. Given the background of ongoing policy level discussions on universal, affordable and free access to health care in India, to introduce additional intellectual property rules as a condition of the free trade agreement would be contradictory, since it would escalate the cost of medicines in India and also across the developing world."

Malpani added. "If the EU succeeds in imposing strict IP rules upon the Indian Government, the massive hike in medicine prices could undermine European leadership to provide international aid for global health. Worryingly it could also debilitate donor programmes that provide access to treatment around the world."

/Ends

For more information, or to arrange an interview with an Oxfam spokesperson, please contact: Sarah Dransfield on +44(0)1865 472269, +44 (0)7767 085636 orsdransfield@oxfam.org.uk