Activists from the Students Stop Campaign and Restless Development massed outside the European Commission offices in London on the 6th February to demand Europe stops its attack on India’s generic medicine industry. AIDS and public health activists say the EC is using Free Trade Agreement negotiations to force India to accept terms that would amount to Europe ‘closing down the pharmacy of the world’.
Europe and India have been locked in negotiations on a new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) since 2007 and with talks reaching a climax, campaigners say the EC is stepping up its attempts to get India to accept restrictions on its right to produce affordable, generic versions of life-saving medicines which go way beyond what is required of India in international law and put millions of lives at risk.
Dressed as greedy EU bureaucrats, the demonstrators shut a ‘pharmacy for the developing world’, as people in HIV Positive t-shirts queued in vain for medicines. Others carried gravestones saying “Killed by EU Greed”. Stop AIDS Campaign Coordinator, Diarmaid McDonald said:
“Over 80% of people receiving HIV medicine in the developing world are taking Indian drugs. The EC is heeding the call of Big Pharma and using its wealth to force India into accepting terms in this agreement that would strangle the vital Indian supply of affordable medicines. This is an attack, driven by greed, on the health of the world’s most vulnerable people and it must stop.”
India’s generic medicines industry has become vital to the health of the world’s poor, with millions across Africa, Asia and South America relying on high quality, affordable Indian-produced medicines to survive – earning it the nickname ‘the pharmacy of the world’.
India has been able to do this by utilising legal flexibilities in international law on trade and intellectual property, but European negotiators are pushing for terms that would fatally undermine this. The EC are demanding a raft of conditions which would drive up the cost of generic production and stack the odds heavily against the generic drug companies.
An anticipated announcement of significant progress in the talks at a summit in New Delhion the 10th February has sparked a wave of protest across Asia, Europe and Africa – the continent which could stand to lose most from an agreement.
Student Stop AIDS Campaign Coordinator, Lotti Rutter said:
“Europe must be stopped. We’ve seen these kinds of conditions imposed on other countries and the outcome has been higher prices, fewer drugs and poorer health. But withIndiait will not just be Indians who will suffer, but the people who rely on Indian medicines across Africa andAsia. We’re here today to demand that the EC back off; and we call on the UK government to make sure they do.
“We’ve been given assurances in the past that nothing in the agreement will harm public health, butEuropekeeps pushing for terms which have harmed public health in other countries. We simply don’t believe their past promises and demand that they categorically drop all demands that threaten public health including data exclusivity, the investment chapter and enforcement measures.”
You can check out the video of the protest here and add your voice to the campaign by telling the EU "Hands of our Medicines" now.