Ban on Branded Drugs – Retrograde? Myopic?
The news item in The Times of India today regarding a proposed ban on branded drugs forces one to think of how retrograde and myopic can one be in finding a solution to an important problem such as drug price escalation? One might ask, is it only drug prices that are escalating? It is reported that during the ten-year period, between 1996 and 2006 drug prices have gone up by about 40 per cent. What about other essential commodities?
There is nothing new in this decision of banning or abolishing brand names for the drugs by the government of India. Thirty-two years ago, in 1980 the government of India took a decision to abolish the brand names for all single ingredient drugs. All the drugs that were to be introduced from 1980 had to be marketed under the generic name. Cimetidine, metoprolol, terbutaline, and nifedipine were some of the important drugs that were affected as a result of this. These drugs were the products of research by different multinational companies. Although some companies introduced these drugs under their generic names, the prices did not come down as expected.
The Economic Times reported that some of the large pharmaceutical companies (multinationals mainly) have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, which gave the following judgement calling the move as unconstitutional:
- The banning of the issue of trade names besides being violative of provisions of the Trade Marks Act, as noticed by us earlier is also violative of provisions of Article 19 (i) (g) of the constitution. This provision guarantees to every citizen the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business…
- Not allowing the brand names usage interferes with the right to carry on trade or business…
Isn’t the government aware of the fact that the denial of a trademark protection is a major disincentive to research and development? What are the likely consequences? No new drug worth its name has been developed in India till date and as a result of this policy of banning brand names and trademarks comes into effect no new drug will be developed in future. So what…?