Hundreds of people marched in New Delhi to protest an ambitious free-trade agreement being negotiated between India and the European Union that patient groups and health activists say could severely curtail Indias production and export of affordable drugs for millions living with HIV in developing countries.
About 80 percent of the HIV medicines distributed in poorer African, Latin American and Central Asian nations come from India. In recent years, with the U.S. government, U.N. agencies and organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation all using the relatively inexpensive Indian-made generic cocktails of antiretroviral drugs in their aid programs, India has earned the nickname pharmacy of the developing world.
Health workers with the medical aid group say that the price of first-line HIV medicines has dropped since 2000 from $10,000 per patient per year to about $150 because of low-cost Indian production.
The proposed free-trade pact between India and the European Union would be the worlds largest, covering about 1.7 billion people. No such pact exists between India and the United States, but the two nations have consulted on bringing about a bilateral investment treaty, which activists say is often the first step toward a free-trade agreement.