UN Health Envoy Knocks EU-India Trade Deal Over Generic Drug Restrictions

A pending free trade deal between India and the European Union could cut supplies of cheap generic HIV drugs relied on by countries like Cambodia, the UN’s health envoy said on Friday.

“Millions in the developing world depend on India for generic medicines at affordable costs,” Anand Grover, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to health, said in a statement. “Restriction of generic drug production in India will have a devastating public health impact around the world and adversely affect the right to health of millions of patients.”

According to UNAIDS, some 95 percent of Cambodia’s antiretroviral drugs comes from India, most of it generic.

Mr Grover said leaked portions of the draft demanding the protection of intellectual property would “severely hamper” India’s ability to keep producing generic drugs. He also rebuked both India and the EU for shutting the public out of their talks.

“At no point has either party voluntarily opened negotiations to the public or made available official draft texts for comment,” Mr Grover said.

The European Commission’s charge d’affaires in Cambodia, Rafael Dochao Moreno, could not be reached for comment. Parinal Kar, the Indian Embassy’s second secretary for political affairs, said he was not authorized to speak with the press on the matter.

A pair of local NGOs opposed to the trade deal, the Cambodian Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS and the Cambodian People Living with HIV/AIDS Network (CPN+), welcomed the UN envoy’s comments yesterday.

“If the UN has spoken out on this, this will create a push for change” to the draft, said Heng Phin, program manager for CPN+.

About 67,000 Cambodians currently suffer from HIV and AIDS.

According to the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs, 41,600 of them receive free antiretrovirals from the government, most of them generic versions from India. NCHADS director Mean Chhi Vun declined to weigh in on the trade deal, referring questions to the government’s partners at the World Health Organization and UNAIDS.

UNAIDS country coordinator Tony Lisle in turn referred a reporter to a UNAIDS statement issued from Geneva on Thursday. Without making direct reference to the India-EU deal, it urged countries not to “trade away the public health of their people for other trade gains.”

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