India-EU Medicine Dispute

  • The European Union Free Trade Agreement (EU FTA) had reached a deadlock after affordable, safe-to-use generic drugs made in India were confiscated as ‘illegal’ and ‘counterfeit.’
  • Nearly 20 shipments of generic drugs, including basic antibiotics and anti-retroviral, were detained while in transit from India to several developing countries via Europe between 2008 and 2009, derailing the free trade agreement negotiations
Recent Development:
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) has dropped the term ‘counterfeit’ and retained ‘falsified’ to describe medicines of inferior quality. The terms were being used interchangeably to confiscated Indian made generic drugs exported to other countries by showing that they were in violation of intellectual property.
  • WHO clarified that ‘counterfeit’— will now be used by member States with respect to protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
Significance of this decision:
This decision by the WHO settles a long-standing battle about labelling of drugs. For far too long, genuine generic medicines have been labelled as counterfeit. The confusion had taken away the much needed attention from the substandard medicines — which is a bigger public health problem for developing countries. Additionally, big pharmaceutical companies were using the term ‘counterfeit’ to describe generic medicines and disrupting trade of generic medicines

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