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We interrupt this coverage of the tsunami

To inform you of the latest way the WTO is sticking it to the poor, sticking it to the middle class, and rewarding the super-rich.
While everyone's paying attention to the tsunamis, not many people are paying attention to a story that's going to make life harder for the injured survivors in need of medicine. The WTO has finally managed to bludgeon India into not manufacturing cheap generic versions of expensive patented drugs. There's a good article on BBC News about it.

Most obviously, this is going to hurt those who don't have much money to spend on drugs:

The sector has done well under the old process patent regime. Companies could produce medicines introduced by international firms via a different process and sell them at less than half the price, thus making huge profits. p> But this will not be the case anymore. Indian companies will no longer be able to reproduce products that will be patented under the new law and some people say this will adversely affect the industry.

But it also promises to do for pharmaceuticals research what free trade has done for software production:

"The innovator must get the reward," [Indian pharmaceuticals firm Ranbaxy V.P. Ramesh Adige] says, adding that this would encourage international pharmaceutical firms to invest in India and thus create job opportunities for people here.

"We have a huge workforce of highly skilled and qualified people," he says, adding that quality innovation in India comes relatively cheap.

"I have no doubt that pharmaceutical outsourcing will be the next big thing here."

And it's not as if the big drug firms are hurting for money in any way. Their claim of hardship because of high R & D costs is a lie. They're already one of the most profitable sectors of the economy.

So, to sum up: in the name of increasing the bottom line for an already lucrative industry, high-paying jobs are going to be destroyed in the First World and people in the Third World are going to be denied access to affordable medicine.

Full story here.

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add a comment on this article

return to their roots 10.Jan.2005 14:13

peace rebel girl

the intent behind this issue is dirty and mean.

But, when i was in india studying ayurveda, i was so surprised to learn that most natives have abandoned their traditional ways of healing, which are said to be the oldest in existence. they are so eager to be like us that they are ignoring one of the most brilliant healthcare systems in the world. the dr. that i worked with said that there are more americans than indians interested in ayurveda.

so, perhaps this legislation will help them to return to thier roots. white man's medicine is a poison.

sometimes the most difficult changes and issues have the most profound impact. in other words, not all "bad" is bad if we can look beneath the surface.

Not all poison, not by a long shot 12.Jan.2005 17:52


"white man's medicine is poison"

Some of it is, but to make generalizations like this is just plain silly.

Like it or not, the countries with the most access to the western medicine you hold in so much disdain tend to have the longest life expectancies, lowest incidences of preventable diseases, lowest infant mortality rates, and so on. That strongly suggests that while SOME procedures in Western medicine may be (and probably are) harmful, many (probably most) of them aren't.

If I get a massive infection, personally I'd be much more interested in antibiotics or sulfa drugs than ayurvedic herbs.