Image India has started a diplomatic exercise to counter a ‘propaganda’ by multinational pharmaceutical companies against Indian generics or off-patent drugs exported to Africa.

In an effort to ensure that its genuine pharmaceutical exports to African countries do not get rejected as fakes, the government gave a presentation to ambassadors and high commissioners of African countries on the scientific way in which generic drugs are manufactured in the country.

It also stressed on the need for African countries, which account for a substantial share of India’s pharma exports, to differentiate between spurious drugs and counterfeits while framing laws to check fakes.

The move follows an anti-counterfeit legislation passed by Kenyan Parliament which could hamper exports from India if not implemented in the right spirit, the official said. India also wants to send the right message across to the African countries before the meeting of African Union health ministers next month where countries exchange notes on best practices in the area of health implemented by them. African countries including Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda account for about 15% of India’s $1 billion pharmaceutical exports.

“Certain multinational pharma companies have started a false propaganda against Indian generics claiming that they are fake. A number of African countries, therefore, now have apprehensions about the quality of medicines that we export.

We have thus started an exercise to educate them about our generic drugs industry, which is totally in alignment with Trips regulations,” the official said.

The meeting, convened by the commerce department, was attended by several representatives of the industry and the drugs controller general of India (DCGI). Kenya’s anti-counterfeit legislation passed last month lays down that generics having patent protection anywhere in the world can be considered counterfeit in case of an intellectual property dispute with the patent holder.

This means that in case a drug company, which does not hold a patent for a medicine in India but holds a US patent, challenges the generic version sold by an Indian company in Kenya, it will be classified as a counterfeit. “Such regulations may result in denying access to quality medicines at affordable prices.

It would also kill the nascent generic industry in African countries, where small units have just started emerging in countries such as Kenya and Uganda,” said Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance president D G Shah.