India is preparing its case on the repeated seizures at European ports of its consignments containing off-patent drugs meant for other developing nations before it moves the European Union and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), according to a commerce ministry official.
New Delhi’s stand is that such actions violate international patent norms that allow developing countries to source life-saving generics from other countries irrespective of whether a manufacturer in a third country holds a patent.
The department is in discussions with the pharmaceutical industry and lawyers to finalise its case before seeking formal consultations with EU on the issue, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The Dutch customs authorities have this year confiscated consignments of anti-HIV and anti-malaria drugs being shipped from India, in one case, to Nigeria, and in another, to Brazil. In both the cases, the Dutch authorities had acted on complaints by European pharma companies that hold European patents of the drugs which are off-patent in India.
The fault was not with the Netherlands, but with EU customs regulations, the official said. The Dutch minister for foreign trade Frank Heemskerk was in India in February and had said that his country supported the supply of generic medicines, especially to the poor, but was bound by EU regulations.
The Dutch government has written to the European Commission for a review of its customs regulations and bring it in sync with the Trips regulations, the minister had added. “We plan to challenge the compatibility of the EU customs regulations with Trips at the WTO.
As soon as we finish the groundwork, we would request EU for consultations on the issue at the WTO,” the official said. If the consultations fail, India could ask the WTO to set up a dispute settlement panel to settle the case.