Anti-retroviral drugs are invaluable therapy for AIDS patients and the world is dependent on India for a cheap supply of the drugs. According to an article (Indian Trade Agreements Could Choke AIDS Drug Lifeline) by Jenara Nerenberg on the Fast Company website, this access could be jeopardized,
India is the primary supplier of anti-retroviral (ARVs) AIDS drugs in middle and low-income countries. And a report from the Journal of the International AIDS Society reveals just how catastrophic it would be if somehow that supply were to get cut off due to political, trade, or disaster-related causes: In some countries, up to 90% of children with AIDS are dependent on India’s cheap, generic drugs.
… The massive, low-cost ARV production industry in India has been made possible by the country’s patent laws. “Indian laws did not grant patents on a product, but only on a process to make it, which helped its drug firms to make cheaper versions and improved formulations using alternative methods,” SciDev.net reports. [emphasis mine]
But not everyone in the world sees those laissez faire patent laws as a good thing. India is in ongoing discussions with the World Trade Organization and the EU, but there is fear that increased patent requirements may dismantle the country’s thriving ARV production industry.
Interesting that a demand to patent products would mean less competition. If India’s experience with anti-retroviral drugs is any indicator, while patenting products gives you more patents (handy when countries are comparing scientific leadership by measuring the number of patents [amongst other criteria] that have been filed) patenting a process leads to more competition or should we call it innovation.
If there’s interest in innovation/competition (something the Canadian politicians and government agencies are very concerned about stimulating) then, I think Canada should look to India and its experience with anti-retroviral drugs for inspiration.