India’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority recently canceled government price caps on 108 expensive and widely prescribed medicines for HIV, diabetes, cancer tuberculosis and cardiac conditions, making lifesaving medicines less affordable, especially for the estimated 30% of India’s population that lives below the poverty line.
NEW DELHI, INDIA (October 13, 2014) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, with its affiliate country program AHF India, today urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to restore drug pricing caps in India that he recently overturned, a move that advocates fear will make making lifesaving medicines less affordable in that country.
Modi received a rock star welcome two weeks ago from a packed Madison Square Garden audience in New York City. Meanwhile, his decision back home to cancel recently instituted price caps on life-saving medicines will be decidedly less popular with nearly one billion Indians who are thought to be without access to health insurance.
This summer, shortly before Modi was sworn into the office, India’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) was empowered to cap prices on 108 expensive and widely prescribed medicines for HIV, diabetes, cancer, tuberculosis and cardiac diseases. The decision was hailed as a breakthrough for public health in India, but a mere three months later NPPA reversed course, moving last week to revoke the price caps, allegedly under
pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and the government.
“Now that drug pricing restrictions have been lifted, prices will likely increase, making medicines unaffordable, especially for the estimated 30% of India’s population that lives below the poverty line,” said Dr. Nochiketa Mohanty, Country Program Manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s AHF India. “The setback is doubly disappointing, because United Progressive Alliance—the ruling coalition prior to Modi’s election—had to overcome substantial pressure from the pharma lobby in order to implement these price caps in the first place.”
The reversal on domestic drug pricing policy in India, which has come to be known as the pharmacy of the world for its role in making affordable generic drugs accessible to millions of people around the world, is a troubling sign of what might happen on the international stage as India and the U.S. explore close trade ties during Modi’s visit.
“Intellectual property rights, particularly with respect to pharmaceutical products, have long been a stumbling block in the Indo-American trade relations,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The U.S. Trade Representative has repeatedly cited India for patent violations. If Modi is persuaded to take a more conservative approach to IP enforcement at home in exchange for closer economic ties with the U.S., the consequence for the global AIDS response, which relies heavily on India generics to treat millions of people in Africa and other hotspots, would be devastating. We urge Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government to reconsider and restore the price caps.”
“At the same time Prime Minister Modi received a ‘rock star reception’ in the United States, the people of India were being discarded for Western business interests—no doubt following pressure on Mr. Modi and the Indian government from multinational pharmaceutical companies that sought, successfully, to do away with drug price caps,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who has been overseeing the 20X20 Campaign—an ambitious worldwide advocacy effort spearheaded by AHF to provide lifesaving AIDS care to 20 million individuals by 2020. “We respectfully ask Prime Minister Modi to reinstate these potentially lifesaving drug price caps for the benefit of Indians as well as the entire world.”