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Drug companies exploiting patent regime: Ekbal

Staff Reporter

`Companies generating super profits'

KOCHI: Large pharmaceutical companies have generated super profits through patenting of top-selling drugs, B. Ekbal, the former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University, has said.

Dr. Ekbal was delivering the Dr. M.V. Kurien memorial lecture organised by the Department of Economics, Union Christian College, at Aluva on Thursday.

He said that the pharmaceutical sector was a pointer to the dangers of strong Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime. He said that drugs that sold in the market might have little to do with the actual health needs of the global population.

The success achieved by the United States in making IPR a trade issue and its subsequent incorporation in the WTO agreement overturns the very basis of trade negotiations, where the developing nations are considered victims and special considerations are taken to solve their problems.

He said that different socio-economic conditions and levels of development require different intellectual property systems. The patent system may entail considerable short-term costs for developing countries, mainly owing to the administrative costs, problems with higher prices for medicines and key technological inputs.

Dr. Ekbal said that higher standards of patent protection are unlikely to have a positive effect on local innovation, except in those few countries that have reached a certain level of technological development.

The U.S. and other developed countries were forced to concede certain flexibilities with the TRIPS framework following the exposure made by civil society organisations and progressive movements the world over.

With the institutionalisation of the concept of IPRs, individual creators ceased to be the beneficiaries and were replaced by large corporate interests, Dr. Ekbal said.

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