IMPHAL, Dec 6: To protest and express concern against inclusion of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) provisions in the proposed European Union- India Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which is likely to affect access to affordable HIV/AIDS drugs, a mass rally was taken out here today.

Organised by Centre for Social Development (CSD) in collaboration with other NGOs working on drugs and HIV/AIDS and North East Dialogue Forum, the rally was flagged off from THAU ground at Thangmeiband and ended at RAU ground, Lairikyengbam Leikai after passing through Khuyathong, North AOC, Tellipati and Khurai Lamlong.

At RAU ground, a public meeting was also held during which convenor of North East Dialogue Forum U Nobokishore, Ramananda Wangkheira kpam of North East People’s Alliance, HIV activist Ng Ratan and secretary of Women Action for Development (WAD) M Sobita spoke highlighting the issues concerning the proposed free trade agreement and its possible impact on the society.

The rally cum public meeting was organised in the context of the upcoming EU-India Business Summit in Brussels, Belgium on December 10. Addressing the meeting, Nobokishore pointed out that IPR provisions in the EU-India FTA will affect access to affordable medicines for patients, particularly HIV/AIDS positive people all the more. Already, with the introduction of product patent regime in 2005, Indian generic drug companies have not been able to produce and supply new HIV medicines that would be needed soon for patients failing the second line Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART), he said. So with increasing number of patent barriers in India and if EU-India FTA was concluded without removing the IPR provisions, it would make access to HIV medicines even more difficult as the provisions intend to prolong patent terms by a number of years, make registration of off-patent generic medicines difficult, seek to undermine the India judiciary’s role of protecting patients and finally try to legalise EU’s border measures that led to the confiscation of life saving generic medicines in transit to developing countries, Nobokishore pointed out, adding that this would result in pushing up the cost of medicines and affect access to cheaper medicines.

Keeping this in view, the policy makers should rethink about inclusion of the IPR provisions in the proposed EU-India FTA, he demanded. Ramananda, who spoke on the possible impact of FTA in the economic activities in Manipuri society, observed that the impact of existing Indo-Myanmar border trade activities in Manipur should be reviewed and analysed before going ahead with any agreement on free trade.

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