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One of these is the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, which obliges WTO member countries to grant patents on pharmaceuticals.To comply with this international obligation, India amended its patent law in 2005 and started to grant patents on medicines.In addition, the 2006 report of the WHO’s Commission on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health also found that there was no evidence that the implementation of WTO rules on patents in developing countries significantly boosts R&D in pharmaceuticals for diseases affecting developing countries.Q: Shouldn't drug companies be rewarded with patent protection for the financial investment they make when developing drugs in the first place?A study published in 2005, concluded that 68 percent of the 3,096 new products approved in France between 19, brought ‘nothing new’ over previously available preparations.Similarly, the British Medical Journal published a study rating barely five percent of all newly-patented drugs in Canada as ‘breakthrough.’ And a breakdown of over one thousand new drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration between 19 revealed that over three quarters have no therapeutic benefit over existing products.Competition among generic manufacturers is what helped bring the cost of HIV and AIDS treatment down from over US,000 per patient per year in 2000 to 0 today.The absence of patents in India has also helped in the development of three-in-one HIV/AIDS medicines called fixed-dose combination pills, and formulations for children.

But where the patent system becomes particularly problematic is when it is abused, and companies seek patents for something that isn't actually new, but is a minor modification to an existing medicine. The scientist behind the discovery of imatinib (the drug that is at the centre of Novartis' lawsuit), Brian Druker, had this to say about Novartis: "pharmaceutical companies that have invested in the development of medicines should achieve a return on their investments.This is why India is known as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’.A: When a pharmaceutical company has a patent in a country, it means it has a monopoly in that country for a certain amount of time.That is because, until 2005, India did not grant patents on medicines.India is one of the few developing countries with production capacity to manufacture quality-assured generic medicines.

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