NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Indian Patients Lose under Indian Patent Regime

September 12, 2014

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center, India ranks last in its list of 25 countries when it comes to intellectual property laws. NCPA Senior Fellow John Graham explains how the country's patent laws hurt Indian patients: because few drugs receive strong patent protection, drug-makers are loath to sell their medicines in India.

Because of India's weak intellectual property regime, new drugs are immediately copied when they enter the Indian market. For example:

  • A report by professors Ernst R. Berndt and Ian M. Cockburn determined that 50 percent of new medicines launched in India were faced with copycat competitors within just one year, while 85 percent faced copycats within three years.
  • In Germany, on the other hand, no new drugs faced similar competition within the first five years of launch.

But wouldn't the high number of copycats mean that Indian patients have greater access to drugs? Not so. As Graham explains, drug makers avoid the Indian market because of the lack of intellectual property protection. As a result:

  • A study of 184 new medicines approved by the U.S. FDA between 2000 and 2009 found that it took over 5.5 years before the drugs finally became available in India.
  • By 2010, 160 of those drugs were available in Germany, while only 111 were available in India.

Additionally, would-be investors are unlikely to fund Indian drug companies seeking to develop new medicines, as there is little guaranteed IP protection in the country. Ultimately, Indian patients are the ones most hurt by the disincentive to innovate, which hinders the creation of a thriving pharmaceutical industry in the country.

The NCPA recently issued a report by Research Associate Clinton Ritchey on India's patent problems, in which Ritchey noted that the country's lack of intellectual property rights enforcement has hindered trade with the United States.

Source: John R. Graham, "Indian Patients Suffer from India's Weak Pharmaceutical Patents,", September 9, 2014. 


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