Wednesday, February 16, 2005

India's been hiding truth about HIV/AIDS, world's hi-est?

India's been leading an attack on the World Trade Organization (WTO)'s patent laws under false pretences, described by researchers Amir Attaran and Roger Bate as "deadly lies." In general, WTO "has long faced angry accusations that its patent rules deny patients in poor countries life-saving medicines by making them too expensive." Not that the problem is nonexistent! It turns out that "most of the problems that [World Health Organization] WHO terms 'essential' in developing countries are no longer patented -- fully 98% of them are off patent. As a result, efforts to assail and reform patent law would only affect health on the margins," say Attaran and Bates.

Most countries spend precious little on public health, and India is an outstanding example where careless neglect has consequences that exponentially raise the stakes to gargantuan proportions. The authors stipulate some particulars regarding "the stingy government-financing earmarked for population health (worldwide, no more than $200 million for malaria in 2003; a bit more for AIDS, less for tuberculosis), and the careless expenditure of foreign aid money on medically useless interventions, or [spent by donor countries] on certain developing countries with a long record of treating their poor and sick citizens with contempt. The evidence, collated by one of us (Attaran), proved as much, and had to be reckoned with."

India is the authors' paramount case. What has India done in the last few years since medical journals have revealed the depatentization of 98% of essential medicines? That great big nation has substituted international political diplomacy for action to help its millions of chronically-ill population that could be helped with medicines, patented or not patented.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence that patents aren't an obstacle to essential medicines, India led a phalanx of developing countries and antiglobalization NGOs intent on doing away with the WTO's patent rules for medicines. They pushed so aggressively that at the WTO summit in Cancun [Mexico] in 2003, their interventions nearly scuppered the Doha Round of trade discussions and the future of the entire WTO. Only after a series of face-saving but ineffective compromises did India relent, and four days shy of a January 2005 deadline, it introduced pharmaceutical patenting. ¶ But while India has been vacillating over patents, its health systems are crumbling, making it patently obvious that its government cares not a jot for its people. A prime example of its lack of attention to healthcare is that by some estimates it may have more HIV positive people (over 5 million) than any other nation, including South Africa."

What's at issue here is the fact that India will be rather marginally affected by medicine patents that occur as a result of new development of drugs by companies who make and test them, possibly in India itself (as India is a net exporter of drugs - largely to the USA), while the Brahim mentality of India's governments (which may possibly be eased under the new régime if it can remain Hindu-nonsubmissive) really doesn't give a damn about the poor who can not stave off the epidemics that visit, not just at tsunami time, but all the time. It seems that the Indian government wants to practice the depopulaton of its poor, especially the untouchable non-caste called "Dalits." Not only Dalits, but many of the the casted population at the bottom of the hierarchical societal ladder of castes don't have access to clean water, which lack is a major source of poverty-related epidemics.

There's more in India's disastrous policy and worldwide negative-diplomacy on medicine patents, but even more largely in the whole of its internal public-health policy and its annual expenditures for its sick and disease control. For TechCentralStation's more thoro article, liberally quoted here with thanks and apologies to TCS from Owlb, click the title-link (I'm hoping it works, since - as of yet - most of my links don't go). Or cut and past:

Dr Amir Attaran is associate professor of both law and international population health at the University of Ottawa, associate fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, and author of Delivering Essential Medicines: The Way Forward (Chatham House, 2004). Roger Bate is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.


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