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No Prescription Yet To Cure Health Problems

NEW DELHI : Irritants in healthcare, especially patents and the price of US-made medical devices, are likely to continue plaguing India-US ties with no major deal expected to be signed during US President Donald Trump’s India visit, according to industry experts.

“Any wide-spectrum negotiation of this magnitude has its ups and downs. However, the overall trajectory of the discussion between the two powerful governments seems positive,” said Pavan Choudary, director general of the Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI).

US-based healthcare firms have for long raised their concerns about section 3(D) of the Indian Patents Act, which rejects patent applications for incremental innovation. Mere discovery of a new derivative form, property or use of a known substance does not qualify for a patent, according to this section.

“There has been no progress on section 3(D). This is an issue that has been irking the US and the progress has been very slow. However, efforts are on in this regard. The Indian government’s response to it has also not been helpful,” said Lalit Bhasin, president of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce’s North Indian Council.

Civil society groups and health activists argue that allowing incremental innovations could open the doors for evergreening of patents, where pharmaceutical companies keep patenting minor tweaks in drugs to shut the doors on generic makers.

Healthcare activists have also criticised a memorandum of understanding (MoU) approved by the Indian government for knowledge-sharing between India and the US on intellectual property rights.

“The US has been opposing public health safeguards in the Patents Act. Unable to change the substantive provisions of the Patents Act, 1970, the US is trying to use indirect methods such as training Indian patent examiners to dissuade them from implementing the public health safeguards in Indian patent law,” five health groups on Saturday jointly wrote to commerce minister Piyush Goyal.

In medical devices, the issue has been primarily focused on the price control of stents and knee implants, which have been under price caps since 2017. The Indian government, under pressure from the US, was considering a model for differential pricing of stents, but that has not been finalized yet, said an official with a foreign stent manufacturer on condition of anonymity.

Some industry officials in India and the US, however, hope that some form of a deal in the healthcare sector will materialize during his visit.

“Both sides seem to have tried to leverage the press as a negotiating tactic, which is what countries usually do. However, I’m still hopeful that there will be a deal,” said Patrick Kilbride, senior vice president of the US chamber of commerce’s global innovation policy center.-Livemint

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