MSF: US should not make trade commitments with India that threaten access to medicines

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

NEW YORK/NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 20, 2019—Ahead of a meeting President Donald Trump will hold this weekend with Indian officials to discuss a trade package between the two countries, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges both governments to not make any commitments that would hurt people’s health by limiting their access to lifesaving medicines.

Weakening India’s current intellectual property policies would affect millions of people who rely on affordable generic medicines produced in India, including people in the United States. Making it harder for generic versions of drugs to enter the market would keep medicines expensive for longer, keeping them out of the hands of people who need them. India supplies affordable generic medicines to people, governments, and treatment providers worldwide, including to MSF’s projects in more than 70 countries.

The United States Trade Representative and Indian Commerce Ministry have been discussing a trade package in preparation for the meeting between Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal that is scheduled to start Sunday.

In the run-up to the visit, media reports have indicated that the US—backed by US pharmaceutical corporations—has been pressuring the Indian government to give up health safeguards such as price controls on essential medical devices like syringes and bandages; diagnostic devices such as X-ray machines, and implants such as pacemakers. This pressure from the US government is deeply problematic as major pharmaceutical corporations frequently try to block generic competitors from entering the market in India.

Leena Menghaney, head of MSF’s Access Campaign in South Asia, said the following today:

“India should be cautious while signing any trade package or launching trade negotiations with the US that may include harmful provisions threatening India’s ability to produce and supply affordable medical products.

“Going by past practices, the key focus of the US in any trade pact has always been to prioritize the interests of its pharmaceutical corporations at the cost of people's lives.

“The world can’t afford to see India’s pharmacy shut down to protect the profiteering of US pharmaceutical companies.”