A leaked draft version of a trade agreement being negotiated between the United Kingdom and India has sparked concern among civil society and patient advocacy groups that the proposed deal would impede the supply of affordable generic medicines in poor countries around the world.
At issue is language that would impose changes in patent and regulatory laws in India and, in doing so, contrast with provisions in a World Trade Organization agreement governing the ability of governments to sidestep patents in order to widen the availability of medicines.
The WTO agreement, known as TRIPS, memorialized the right of a country to grant a license to a public agency or a generic drugmaker, allowing it to copy a patented medicine without the consent of the brand-name company that owns the patent. (Here is a primer.) For the moment, the language suggests the free trade agreement would open the door to unraveling the terms of the TRIPS stipulations.
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