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India’s generics to the rescue

For decades now, the Indian pharmaceutical drug companies have been under the spotlight and depicted in a rather negative way with regards to generic manufactures. Indeed, there have been many instances where battles were fought in court, won and lost over the licencing of blockbuster molecules and the rights to market them. Examples of compulsory licencing have been numerous and extremely controversial over the media, and in general, the pharmaceutical industry of the country has been viewed as problematic.

Despite this fact, there are examples where the production of low cost generic drugs by Indian firms have been critical in maintaining an edge over infectious diseases all around the planet, and thus, one can argue that India has been a decisive player in the stability of the world’s population health. This is especially true when observing the fight against retroviruses, the one most familiar to us designated as the HIV.

Addressing the high level General Assembly this month at the United Nations on a talk about HIV/AIDS, the Indian Minister for Health and Family Welfare J.P Nadda mentioned that India was a major player in the struggle against HIV as the country supplies more than 80% of all antiretroviral drugs used globally. This might be explained by the fact that India’s prevalence of the disease is estimated to be at 0.3 percent (2013 est.) of the population. Although this might seems a low percentage, it still represents 2.1 million people living with the virus and ranks India as one of the most affect countries in the world in terms of the HIV epidemic, not to mention that a recorded 130,000 deaths (2013 est.) were due to AIDS related illnesses. The Minister emphasised that 15 years ago, India had to react quickly in order avoid disastrous consequences for the nation if nothing was done.

The generic industry has enabled the nation to manage the epidemic effectively as statistics show that India saw a reduction of deaths due to HIV by 55 percent from 2007, and a reduction of new infections by 66 percent since the year 2000. These generic copies then spread around the world as they were sorely needed. The humanitarian NGO Doctors Without Borders, which has been a partisan of generic drugs for many years has acknowledged that the Indian generic medicine’s industry has been vital in their operations as it has allowed the price of HIV treatment to drop from US$ 10’000 to about US$ 80 nowadays.

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