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July 13, 2005
International Access to Meds
It seems that there are a number of battles (in Florida, and more recently, in California) over prescription drug benefits for the poor in the U.S., and similar issues are facing people with brain diseases all over the world. We received a notification from an advocate in India (a doctor, and a vocal mental illness advocate) regarding potential patents of psychiatric drugs in India. In her fight to prevent such patents from passing, which would raise the prices of second-generation antipsychotics for patients in India who cannot otherwise afford them, she referred to the World Health Organization Essential Drug List to help make a case that these medicines are essential to the recovery of people with brain diseases. She was appalled to find not a single second-generation (atypical) antipsychotic medication on the list.
She is now calling for action from several prominant leaders of international organizations (for example, the World Psychiatric Association and the World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders), in an effort to get second-generation antipsychotics included on the Essential Drugs List, and hopefully to prevent the passage of patents in India which would bar access for too many patients in need.
[Editors note: India has, until recently, been operating outside of the international patent system and laws (therefore their drug companies could produce generic versions of patented drugs without any legal issues - and sell those drugs at very low costs to their vast populations of poor and ill people).
This year, however, the government of India is joining the international patent system - in part because India now has many very smart, well-educated scientists who can now develop new drugs to sell to a global population - but to have the financial incentive (that is, to be able to get investors to fund their research) to work on these new drugs they needed international patent protection. So the Indian government decided that it was time to join the global patent system so as to provide for an encouraging environment for further growth of their small, but growing pharmaceutical and biotech educational facilities and industies. If they did not do this, their researchers would continue to leave the country and move to other countries like the US and Europe, as they have traditionally done. The problem with this, however, is that India would lose many of its best-trained researchers and scientists. This is a problem that all developing countries have eventually faced as they develop world-class scientific and business communities. At some point it makes sense for the benefit of the country to adopt global standards for patent protection.
Unfortunately its a trade-off, because while the country (and indeed the world) will eventually get the benefit of important new drugs created by their talented researchers, it seems that under the agreement that the prices of patented drugs will increase, and thus making them less available to many people in India.
We hope that a better balance between the interests of the growing pharma and biological research community, and the poor mentally ill in India who need the drugs, can be met to a greater level of satisfaction for all].
Below is our Indian Advocate's summary of the situation, and the actions she has taken.
Atypical anti-psychotics excluded from the WHO EDL.
How did it all start?
Update on results (added July 25, 2005): We have just recieved word from our advocate in India that Dale Johnson, president of WHO, has acknowledged her letter concerning the situation of antipsychotic medications. A similar acknowledgement has come from the head of the World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders, inviting comments.
Posted by Julia at July 13, 2005 08:06 AM
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