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HIV patients demand India rejects EU trade demands

Reuters/B Mathur

Thousands of HIV-positive protesters gathered in New Delhi on Wednesday to denounce EU trade demands they say would make life-saving drugs too expensive for millions of people with the virus. The European Union wants stricter intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical companies, which, critics say, will hinder Indian drug manufacturers producing cheaper generics for use across the developing world.

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More than 2,000 demonstrators from Indian and other Asian countries marched through downtown Delhi, in a protest timed to coincide with ongoing negotiations between Indian and EU officials.

"More than 80 per cent of the Aids drugs our medical practictioners use to 175,000 people in developing countries are affordable generics from India," said Paul Cawthorne, a spokesperson for medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

"We cannot afford to let our patients' lifelife be cut."

As part of a free trade agreement with India, the EU wants to extend patent protection on new drugs to up to five years.

It is also seeking to introduce "data exclusivity", which would restrict the information that brand-name pharmaceutical companies make available to their generic rivals, for example clinical trial results.

The UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, says data exclusivity would be a "colossal mistake" for India, which he describes as "the pharmacy of the developing world".

The EU denies that the trade agreement will jeopardise the production of generic drugs. It says the deal has been carefully worded to ensure that none of the proposed anti-counterfeit and property rights measures target medicines "either directly or indirectly".

Brussels and Delhi have not yet concluded negotiations on the trade pact, which has been under discussion since 2007.

Indian-made generics have reduced the average yearly cost of anti-HIV drug treatments from 7,200 euros per patient in 2000 to just 50 euros in 2010.

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