UK India Trade Talks: Striking a Balance Between IP Protection and Affordable Drugs

November 3, 2023
UK-India trade talks Affordable drug imports

On the surface, such a deal may seem positive, as it can foster innovation and provide incentives for companies to invest in research and development. However, there are concerns that an overly stringent IP deal could have unintended consequences, particularly in the realm of healthcare.


India is often referred to as the “pharmacy of the developing world” due to its robust generic drug industry. The country is known for producing affordable, high-quality generic versions of essential medications, including those for chronic diseases like HIV, cancer, and diabetes. These generic drugs have played a crucial role in making treatment accessible and affordable to millions of people, not only in India but also in other countries that rely on Indian drug exports.


The concern is that an IP deal between the UK and India could lead to stricter IP protections, potentially making it more challenging for Indian generic drug manufacturers to produce and export affordable medications. This, in turn, could impact the availability of low-cost drugs in the UK and other countries that rely on Indian pharmaceutical exports.


While strong IP protection is essential to incentivize pharmaceutical innovation, there is a delicate balance to strike. The World Trade Organization (WTO) recognizes the importance of public health and access to medicines, and it allows countries to issue compulsory licenses to produce generic versions of patented drugs in the interest of public health.


India has a track record of using compulsory licenses to ensure the availability of essential medicines at affordable prices. An IP deal that restricts this flexibility could limit India’s ability to issue compulsory licenses, potentially resulting in higher drug prices and reduced access to medications.

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