EU assures India to take steps to resolve drug seizure cases

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The EU has assured India that it will take steps to resolve the issue related to the recent cases of life-saving generic or off-patent medicines exported from India to other countries being seized at European ports, but would prefer not to do so through a legal battle at the World Trade Organization (WTO).


This year, there have been two instances of Dutch customs authorities confiscating consignments of anti-HIV and anti-malaria drugs being shipped from India to Nigeria and Brazil, respectively. The Dutch government claimed that it had no option but to carry out the seizures following complaints made by European pharmaceutical companies as the European customs laws warranted that. The European pharma companies making the complaints held European patents for the drugs that are off-patent in India.

According to India, the consignments were perfectly legitimate as they contained high quality drugs which were not eligible for patent protection in India. The seizures violated the international patent rules as contained in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

The European Commission is aware that this issue has to be dealt with, but whether this is to be achieved through making changes to the EU customs regulations, improving customs practice or by other means has yet to be looked at, said European Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton, speaking in New Delhi, India.

European Commissioner Ashton told journalists that India has not previously discussed any formal complaint with the Commission about the seizures of Indian-manufactured generic drugs, which have been taking place while they were in transit in European ports on their way to Third World countries, and have followed allegations by patentholders that the drugs were in fact counterfeit.

Ms Ashton also said there have been discussions with EU Member States about the problem and that the Commission and her “technical people” have “some ideas” about how to deal with the problem without going through the WTO legal process. However, she stressed that if the Indian government was not satisfied with the measures which the Commission will propose for ending the seizures, it could request a dispute settlement panel at the WTO.

Ms Ashton was in New Delhi, India, on the weekend of 5 September 2009 for an informal ministerial meeting of the WTO, and her comments came after sideline discussions on the seizures with India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Before meeting Ms Ashton, Mr Sharma stressed that the government would be firm on the issue, and added that the “great job” done by Indian drugmakers in ensuring that people across the globe have access to cheap life-saving medicines may not have been appreciated.

PharmaTimes 7 September 2009. EU pledge to India over drug seizures.

The Economic Times. 6 September 2009. EU will take steps to resolve drug seizure cases, says Ms Ashton.

Source: PharmaTimes; The Economic Times

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