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May 14, 2002 | 1245 IST
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Pharma firms seek clarifications on Patents Bill

BS Corporate Bureau

Pfizer, Aventis and domestic biotechnology firm Biocon have demanded clarity on certain provisions in the Patents (second amendment) Bill, such as compulsory licencing and exports by non-patent holders to the least developing nations.

"Provisions relating to compulsory licensing in the Patents Bill should be in compliance with Trips, which has adequate provisions for compulsory licencing. As per the amendment bill, compulsory licencing can be evoked by the Centre during emergency conditions. However, clarity is lacking on issues relating to emergency conditions," Ramesh Subramanian, managing director of Aventis Pharma, said at a press conference here on Monday.

Interestingly, leading domestic pharmaceutical firms and their associations were not present at the press conference.

Hocine Sidi Said, managing director of Pfizer, said small companies, which do not hold any patent, could misuse certain provisions. At present, non-patent holders are not allowed to manufacture products in the country.

"However, these drug firms will be allowed to manufacture drugs for exports to least developing nations, once the amendment comes into force. This situation can be exploited by small and medium scale companies, unless the Centre clarifies its stand on all issues," he added.

In the amended Patent Bill, the essence of compulsory licencing has been diluted significantly. Anyone could go through the licencing system without difficulties if the government implements the Patents Bill.

"We welcome the compulsory licencing system. It has been used extremely in Japan, the US, etc, in sectors like biotech, computer, pharma, etc," Said added.

Some pharmaceutical firms think amendments to the Bill will reduce opportunities to make India a hub for several global drug firms.

"We need to create an environment for innovation. However, we are not doing anything to encourage innovation. The patent infrastructure is also poor here," Kiran Mazumdar - Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon, said.

According to analysts, Trips will not benefit developing countries as prices of several products are likely to shoot up. But, MNC firms feel the objective is to promote global innovation.

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