Thursday, January 06, 2005

patently wrong

scribble pad.

where hiv is concerned, india is on the brink of an epidemic the proportion of africa's. we have been fighting to widen the safety margin the last few years. god knows how much this new patent act is going to set us back by. there are 2 main problems as i see 'em -

1. for the people already on medication
2. for the people who need, but havent so far been able to afford medication.

those people who are positive and have been on anti retrovirals will probably find the cost of drugs increasing under the new product patent norm. under the process patent, indian pharma were able to analyse the finished product, and using different methods were able to produce it at much lower costs, offering positive people a whole array of generic drugs. now, they will no longer be able to do that. people in brazil and other parts of the world as well will feel the loss of this segment since our generic drugs were being exported to several places.

for those who are positive, but have not been able to afford anti-retroviral therapy to date, medication will now become an even more remote possibility. already, less than half the people needing medication in india are actually able to afford it. now that number is going to further decrease. as usual, the WTO will cater to that one exclusive category - the (rich enough!) consumers. what happens to all those who are on the margins of society, who can never think of being consumers??

there is also another complication to consider. that of drug resistant and mutant strains of the virus. once started, ART must be taken life-long. now, since many people may longer be able to afford it, they may simply have to stop their medicines, causing new mutant strains of the virus to be formed in their bodies. also, these strains may be drug resistant since the person wasnt ART naive. this will be a massive issue well have to address in the fight against HIV from now on.

all this playing around with people's lives for what? - more money, more power, more control?... the only thing that could possibly save us would be if the govt were to actively regulate ARV prices and ensure that the scene doesnt get out of hand. talk about scary!

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