What is the average cost of a drug used to cure cancer? Nobody can answer this question exactly because the price varies from country to country. For example Gleevec, a leukemia drug that costs $70,000 per year in the US, costs just $2,500 in India.
That is what occurs in today’s world of medicines. Indian pharmaceutical industry has developed generic medicines to compete those having patent rights. The Indian generic medicines are not just cheap in prices but they have simplified the treatment of major diseases like AIDS, Cancer, TB and other infectious diseases too. For instance Nexavar, a drug used to treat liver cancer, was being charged $ 4500 per month by a German drug company, Bayer. Its generic drug was developed in India which decreased the price of the medicine to 97 percent. Also in spite of taking a hand full of pills, one can just take 2-3 medicines a day as a treatment of AIDS. An Indian Drug company has developed AIDS pill, Cipla, that combines three drugs. There are already other AIDS pills that combine three drugs. One, made by a company in India, was recently approved by the F.D.A. for use in developing countries. But those other three-in-one pills generally contain older drugs and are taken twice a day.
The Indian drug is expected to expand further from $ 22 million to $ 32 million by 2017. The overall cost of an AIDS drug has reduced from $ 10000 to $100 but the warning bells have started ringing now. India is facing immense pressure from the international pharmaceutical corporations to make changes in its patent laws despite the fact that the generic medicines developed in the Indian drug market are legitimate under the international laws. Recently, the Indian Supreme Court last year supported a patent rejection for a drug used to treat cancer that was produced by a Swiss company while maintaining that the generic drug, Glivec that was formulated in an Indian drug company was entirely modification of the existing medicine.
The Indian Patent Act of 1970 proved to be very generous towards the domestic pharma industry as it not only allowed patenting of the drug producing process instead of the product but also encouraged the shortening of life of drug patents. India has done a remarkable job in the field of medicine. By encouraging the domestic drug companies, it has developed the generic alternatives to the life-saving drugs. According to the Indian IPRs, the patents are issued only when they are completely new.
The public sector availability of medicines is low especially in the under-developed countries. Due to the absence of essential drugs in the public sector, the patients are left with no other alternative except to purchase medicines from the private sector at high prices. Therefore, a key strategy to improve the access to medicines is to develop the generic medicines. The Indian generic medicines, being a source of cheap medicines, have proved to be a great blessing for those who cannot afford high cost medicines. In case of any amendment in Indian patent laws, the low cost of life-saving drugs would become an unachievable task that would deprive the majority of poor population of its legitimate right of access to medicines.