‘Affordability, Availability, Accessibility of medicines’

The Centre for Intellectual Property Rights Research and Advocacy, headed by Professor T. Ramakrishna (Chair professor of IP at NLSIU),  and the MHRD Chair on IPR of National Law School of India University, Bangalore in association with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, New Delhi organized a one day national conference on ‘Affordability, Availability, Accessibility of medicines and IPR’ on the 5th of January 2016.

The main objective of the conference was to provide a platform to the government representatives, stakeholders and general public to discuss on issues including the challenges and opportunities of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing policy, Business policies of the pharmaceutical industry in India, role of TRIPS flexibilities in mitigating the medicine price issue and the role of public/private insurance and medical access.

Dr. Sharmila Mary Joseph, Member Secretary, NPPA presented the welcome address while Dr. V.M. Katoch, Former Secretary to Govt. of India, delivered the keynote address. Dr. Katoch in his address explained the kind of expenses incurred by a patient in India and relative figures in other countries.

The conference was divided into four technical sessions, each session being addressed by a distinguished panel of experts.

The first session of the conference discussed the “National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy Framework in India”

Speaking on the challenges and opportunities in this context, Dr. Sharmila Mary Joseph highlighted the role of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) in fixing the ceiling price of notified drugs. She also discussed on various aspects of the Drug Price Control Order 2013, including the highs and lows of the order.

Dr. Navneeth Tewari, Program Officer, UNAIDS, New Delhi, spoke about the different pricing policies across the world; he explained how the rule of demand and supply was not applicable to the medical sector, primarily due to the involvement of experts [doctors]. He also discussed the policies adopted by the OECD and BRICS nations. He appreciated the value based system adopted by NHS, UK and condemned the market driven system adopted by the United States.

The challenges and opportunities of the NPPA were discussed by Ms. Malini Aisola, Programme Coordinator –All India Drug Action Network, New Delhi. She cited several examples to drive home the point that cost based control was a better option than market based control in drug pricing and the need for NPPA to change its policies and strategies.

The second session involved discussion on patented medicine & business policies of the pharmaceutical industry in India.

Dr. Ramesh Krishnamurthy of Novonordisk, Bangalore advocated the industrial perspective on patented medicines. He talked about the necessity of patented medicine and how patents are critical to pharmaceutical innovations. He justified pharma patents by citing factors such as high cost involved in R&D, cost of failure and the market risks. Dr. Ramesh concluded by stating – “Patents are the life line of pharmaceutical business.”

Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala, Managing Partner, BananaIP Counsels discussed two landmark cases viz., the Imatinib case (Novartis v. UOI) and Sitagliptin case (MSD v. Glenmark). He elaborated on the effects of these cases on pharmaceutical pricing and showed how judicial decisions could vary when discussing the same issues. Towards the end of his presentation he created a patent decision predictability quadrant from the patent holder perspective in which he showed how the price of the drug and the life saving index of that drug play a key role in determining the judicial response in case of patentability and enforceability.

Ms. Ramya Sheshadri, Lawyers’ Collective, Bangalore introduced the audience to the pricing methods that are adopted for patented medicines by other countries like UK, USA, France, Germany, etc. She discussed various types of pricing models adopted by the pharmaceutical industry and presented her opinions on the subject suggesting that Price Negotiation of Patented Drugs should be encouraged.

The third session of the event was aimed at discussing the Role of TRIPS flexibilities in mitigating the Medicine Price Issue. It primarily dealt with the role of International Law in controlling the price of Medicine.

Dr. James Nedumpara of Jindal Global Law School, New Delhi, discussed about the role of Doha Declaration in pharma patenting and how IPR related issues could not be discussed in isolation with health service. While he appreciated the object behind Doha declaration, he inclined to state that mere declaration would not alone help in delivering positive results.

Dr. Gopakumar G Nair, an IP Consultant discussed on the various provisions relating to Compulsory Licenses both at national and international levels. He also spoke on the provisions of Paris Convention relating to International Law and appreciated the US law on Compulsory Licensing. His talk concluded by highlighting the problems in executions of Compulsory licenses in India.

Dr. Kausalya Santhanam, Founder at SciVista IP & communications spoke about Voluntary Licenses, and explained to the audience on how VL’s result in a win-win situation for both Manufacturers and consumers.

Dr. Reji K Joseph, Associate Professor, Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), New Delhi, in his talk focused on the role of the production process of medicines and its effects on price. Highlighting the need for local production, he stated that although India is the 3rd largest manufacturer of medicines, it is heavily dependent on China for active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) which in turn is one of key factors for the hike in the costs of essential medicines.

The fourth session was chaired by Mr. Nishid Gangwal, Shri. M. Lakshmi Narayanan and Ms. Parvathi Shankar. This was a solution oriented session. The speakers discussed various health care systems followed in different parts of the world. They also discussed about the reasons for low penetration of health insurance in India and steps to improve it.

The end of fourth session marked the end of conference. All the speakers were honored with mementos and Shri. M. Lakshmi Narayana, IAS, Principal Secretary (Health) Govt. of Karnataka delivered valedictory address.


Authored by Nidhi Singh and Anantha T.R.

Image Source/Attribution here, this image is in the public domain.


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