Adverse Reaction

Glivec (Gleevec) film tablet made by Novartis.
Glivec (Gleevec) film tablet made by Novartis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suhrith Parthasarathy has penned a terrific essay on the recent legal clash between Novartis and the Indian government on global health patents, specifically looking at Gleevec, a super drug that has made a significant difference worldwide in the treatment of cancer. The piece covers a lot of ground and is extremely deft at that. Through this battle, Parthasarathy is able to distill clearly ongoing  turf wars in global politics that pits developed against the developing countries, multinational corporations versus domestic manufactures, innovators against consumers, power shift between research and development and services and manufacturing’s importance to an economy, etc. Also, the article tazes out some of the fierce contestations taking place in global health between chronic and communicable diseases, the lack of pharmaceutical attention to global disease burden, inability of existing global health actors to institute credible patent policies on drugs, etc. Highly recommended read. Here’s a brief nugget below:

“These attempts reached their peak in the course of the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations, conducted between 1986 and 1994. During the talks, the US in particular exerted substantial pressure on developing countries to agree to intellectual property law guidelines as a mandatory condition of their membership in the soon-to-be-formed WTO. In return for cleaving to these regulations, countries would be bestowed with “most-favoured nation” status, which would entitle them to a host of trade advantages, including access to wealthy consumers in the West. “Essentially, rich countries told the poorer countries, ‘If you want us to open up our markets, you have to provide strong intellectual property protection’,” Thomas Pogge, an ethics professor at Yale University who works on patent issues, told me.” 

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