The Caravan
Unhealthy Obsession Image Credit: The Caravan
Unhealthy Obsession Image Credit: The Caravan

Unhealthy Obsession

How US pressure is endangering India’s access to affordable medicines

Jyotsna Singh

In late April, the United States Trade Representative—the agency responsible for developing and recommending US trade policy to the president—released its annual report, called “Special 301.” The report analyses trade policies of countries across the world, especially their intellectual-property laws, and categorises them. India has been put on what the report calls a “priority watch list,” which includes countries judged by the USTR as having “serious intellectual property rights deficiencies” that require the agency’s increased attention. India has been put on the list for a record twenty-seventh time, and is accompanied by ten other countries, including Russia and China. The agency warns: “For such countries that fail to address U.S. concerns, USTR will take appropriate actions … pursuant to World Trade Organization or other trade agreement dispute settlement procedures, necessary to combat unfair trade practices and to ensure that trading partners follow through with their international commitments.”

The reason for India’s seemingly permanent position on the list is its patent system, which the agency deems too lax. According to the report, the main challenges in India for US companies are the country’s patent laws and “counterfeit” medicines. However, these patent laws also help keep prices of medicines low, which has allowed the Indian generic-drugs industry to flou

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