IPR, Climate Change and addressing the issue of transfer of Carbon abatement technology in the developing world.

To address all pervasive global challenge of climate change, access to efficient and cost effective carbon abatement technology to reduce the greenhouse effect has become a very important issue, especially for an emerging economy like, India. This issue perhaps will gain even more importance after the forthcoming Copenhagen Summit on climate change.
Various schools of thoughts:
Many experts argue that patents on various efficient carbon abatement technology developed by the western countries are making it increasingly difficult for the emerging economies of the world to address this issue, in a cost effective manner.

Another group of experts argue with equal zest that all patented technologies do not cost very high for efficient carbon abatement. Out of various types of such patented technologies, which are available globally to reduce the greenhouse effect, some may cost high, but many of them are also available at quite a low cost.

The third group says that many other efficient technologies are available to reduce carbon emission, which are not covered by any Intellectual Property Right (IPR), at all. Developing or emerging economies should consider these technologies to address this global issue, effectively.

An encouraging trend:

An encouraging trend is now emerging where the developing countries are also applying for patent on such technology with an increasing number. A recent report by the COPENHAGEN ECONOMICS highlights that during last four years, while the number of global patent on the carbon abatement technology increased by 120 per cent over the corresponding period of previous four years, the number of such patents from the developing or emerging economies increased by around 550 per cent. This is indeed a very interesting trend.

Difference in the number of patented technologies within the developing countries:

The same report also indicates that there is a striking difference in the number of patent protected carbon abatement technologies even within the developing and emerging economies. As per this report, around 99 percent of all patent protected technologies are from a small group of emerging economies, whereas just a meagre 0.6 percent of these patented technologies are from a large number of lower-income developing economies. This anomaly is believed to be mainly due to commercial reasons, as the owners of these patents are from the developed economies of the world.

A comparison between India and China:

The report highlights that 40 percent of the carbon abatement technology patents in China are locally owned against around just 14 percent in India.


Be that as it may, such studies perhaps will go in favour of the argument that patent protected carbon abatement technologies should not be considered as a barrier to technology transfer for reducing carbon emission by the low-income developing countries of the world. Also the IPR by itself perhaps will not be an impediment in the transfer of carbon abatement technology from the developed economies.

Many believe that rather than technological reasons, economic reasons are coming in the way in reducing carbon emission in the low income developing countries. The factors like, lack of adequate expertise to develop carbon abatement technologies locally, small market size to warrant a local manufacturing facility, low purchasing power etc. all put together play a significant role in appropriately addressing the greenhouse effect by these countries.

The local government of the respective developing countries should take all these factors into consideration and come out with appropriate and robust policy measures, which also should include lucrative fiscal incentives for using cheaper and efficient carbon abatement technology, to contain the greenhouse effect, efficiently and effectively.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

Tackling the menace of counterfeit medicines – vested interests or petty sentiments should not make the pressing public healthcare issue irrelevant.

There are following three clearly emerging views on the global issue of counterfeit drugs:1. The innovator companies feel that the generic pharmaceutical industry and the drug regulators are
not really very keen to effectively address and resolve this global public health issue.2. The generic companies and the drug regulators feel that the problem is not as acute as it is
projected to be and the innovator global pharmaceutical companies through their intense advocacy
campaign are trying to exploit the situation to fight against generic medicines and parallel imports.

3. Some other group, including a section of NGOs claim that an important public health sentiment is
being used by the R&D based global pharmaceutical companies to extend intellectual property rights
(IPR) to patients’ safety issue, allegedly for vested interest. These organizations have taken their arguments
to various international platforms like Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and
International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) of the World
Health Organization (WHO),
for effective resolution of their grievances.

Addressing some of these concerns:

IPR being extended to the definition of counterfeit medicines:

Even in India, ‘misbranding’ though an integral part of IPR, is considered as a public health issue and is an offence under Section 17 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Acts, 1940. Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology, 2006 has estimated a loss to the industry towards such counterfeit medicines of US$ 30 billion, which is about 6% of the turnover of the global pharmaceutical industry.

Magnitude of problem with counterfeit medicines has been inflated:

In the industrialized and developed nations of the world with effective regulatory control, the problem perhaps, may not be as acute. A study done by IMPACT in 2006 indicates that in countries like, the USA, EU, Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand the problem is less than 1%.

Similar study, on the other hand, indicated that in the developing nations like parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa more than 30% of the medicines are counterfeits. It has also been reported that in South East Asia, estimated prevalence of counterfeit artesunate for malaria is 33-53%.

Apprehension from some section of the generic pharmaceutical industry:

Apprehensions from some section of the generic pharmaceutical industry that attempts are being made by the interested groups within the industry to bring generic drugs under the purview of counterfeit medicines, is indeed unfounded. As from no developed countries around the world, there has been any threat to non-patent infringing legal generic medicines. And why there should be any such threat at all, when the world is witnessing the global pharmaceutical companies scaling up their generic business operations?

On the contrary generic pharmaceutical business, in almost all developed markets across the world, is growing at a much faster pace than the patented products of the innovator companies and this trend is expected to continue at least in short to medium term.

An unexplained similarity:

From the above details one will be tempted to draw a conclusion that in all those countries where access to modern medicines is poor, incidences of counterfeit medicines are higher. IMPACT has reported counterfeit versions of all types of medicines ranging from anti-malarial, anti-hypertensives, anti-tubercular, anti-retroviral to cardiovascular and other life saving and life style drugs, from these countries.

Various types of counterfeit medicines:

WHO has indicated following types of counterfeit medicines:

• Without active ingredients: 32%

• Wrong ingredients: 21.4%

• Incorrect quantities of active ingredients: 20.2%

• Right quantities of active ingredients but in fake packaging: 15.6%

• High levels of impurities and contaminants: 8.5%

• “Substituted ingredients of anything from paracetamol to boric acid, talcum powder, rat poison or
road paint”

• Medicines purchased online from illegal internet sites: 50%

Factors influencing flourishing trade of counterfeit medicines:

WHO IMPACT has reported following key factors:

• Low manufacturing costs, thus higher profit margin

Albany Law Journal reports that high pricing ratio of counterfeit medicines compared to a branded
product attracts counterfeiters

• In countries like India the risk of detection of fake medicines is quite low where the penalties for such
heinous crime even today is very lenient, as the amended anti-counterfeit law, for some strange
reasons, has not been made operational, as yet.

Global sales forecast for counterfeit medicines:

The sales of counterfeit medicines across the world as estimated by the ‘Centre for Medicine in Public Interest’ will be around US$75 billion by the end of 2010. This is an increase of over 90% as compared to 2005.

Incidence of detection of counterfeit medicines:

A report from the WHO’s Executive Board in its 124th session indicated that the detection of counterfeit medicines in 2007 had increased to more than 1,500. This reflects an increase of around 20% over 2006 and ten times more compared to year 2000.

Volume of counterfeit seizures, the world over:

WHO indicated that in 2005-06 the volume of counterfeit drug seizures included 2.7 million articles and the main countries where these articles originated from, were reported as follows:

• India: 31%
• UAE: 31%
• China: 20%


We have, therefore, enough data to establish that counterfeit drugs are posing a growing menace to the humanity. All stakeholders should join hands to address this public health issue, leaving aside petty commercial interests, be it generic pharmaceutical companies or research based pharmaceutical companies, across the world and India is no exception. Otherwise, thugs and criminals who are running to their banks, more often than ever before, with sacks full of money from this illicit trade, at the cost of the innocent patients, will keep going almost scot free, forever.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

Leverage Information Technology (IT), Health Insurance and ‘Jan Aushadhi’ initiatives to address the burning issue of ‘Access to Affordable Integrated Healthcare to all’ in India.

Despite so much of general focus, stringent Government control, debate and activism on the affordability of modern medicines in India, a vast majority of Indian population still do not have access to basic healthcare facilities.The degree of poor access to healthcare in general may vary from state to state depending on economic resources and the quality of governance. However, despite the success of the Government to make medicines available in India cheaper than even Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it has been reported that about 65% of Indian population still do not have access to affordable modern medicines compared to 15% in China and 22% in Africa.Lack of adequate healthcare infrastructure:

One of the key reasons of such poor access is lack of adequate healthcare infrastructure. As per the Government’s own estimate of 2006, India records a shortage of:

1. 4803 Primary Health Centres (PHC)
2. 2653 Community Health Centres (CHS)
3. Almost no large Public Hospitals in rural areas where over 70% of the populations live
4. Density of doctors in India is just 0.6 per 1000 population against 1.4 and 0.8 per 1000 population in China and Pakistan respectively , as reported by WHO.

Moreover, doctors themselves do not want work in rural areas, probably because of lack of basic infrastructural facilities. We have witnessed public agitation of the doctors on this issue, in not so distant past.

National Health Policy and Healthcare Expenditure:

Two key primary focus areas of the Government, everybody agrees, should be education and health of its citizens. Current National Health Policy also planned an overall increase in health spending as 6% of GDP by 2010. However India spent, both public and private sectors put together, an estimated 5% of GDP on healthcare, in 2008.

If we look at only the spending by the Government of India towards healthcare, it is just 1.2% of GDP, against 2% of GDP by China and 1.6% of GDP by Sri Lanka, as reported in the World Health Report 2006 by WHO.

During the current phase of global and local financial meltdown, as the government will require to allocate additional resources towards various economic stimulus measures for the industrial and banking sectors, public healthcare expenditure is destined to decline even further.

The silver lining:

However we have seen the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government allocating around US$2.3 billion for the National Rural Health Mission (NRHS). The Government announced that NRHS aims to bring about uniformity in quality of preventive and curative healthcare in rural areas across the country.

Inefficient healthcare delivery system:

Despite above silver lining of additional resource allocation, the net outcome does not appear to be so encouraging even to an eternal optimist, because of prevailing inadequacy within the system.

The reasons for such inadequacies do not get restricted to just rampant corruption, bureaucratic delay and sheer inefficiency. The way Government statistics mask inadequate infrastructural facilities is indeed equally difficult to apprehend. A recent report from ‘The Economist’, which reads as follows, will vindicate this point:

‘…around 20% of the 600,000 inhabited villages in India still have no electricity at all. This official estimate understates the extent of the problem, as it defines an electrified village—very generously—as one in which at least 10% of households have electricity’.

Leveraging the strength of Information Technology (IT) to considerably neutralize the system weaknesses:

One of the ways to address this problem is to utilize the acquired strengths of India wherever we have, to neutralize these weaknesses. Proficiency in ‘Information Technology’ (IT) is one of the well recognized key acquired strengths that India currently possesses. If we can optimally harness the IT strengths of India, this pressing healthcare issue could possibly be addressed to a significant extent.

One such IT enabled technology that we can use to address rural healthcare issues is ‘cyber healthcare delivery’ for distant diagnosis and treatment of ailments. Required medicines for treatment could be made available to the patients through ‘Jan Aushadhi’ initiative of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), by utilising the Government controlled distribution outlets like, public distribution system (ration shops) and post offices, which are located even in far flung and remote villages of India.

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Sources of Healthcare financing in India:

Currently the sources of healthcare financing are patchy and sporadic as follows, with over 70% of the population remaining uncovered:

1. Public sector: comprising local, State and Central Governments autonomous public sector bodies for their employees

2. Government health scheme like:

‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’: for BPL families to avail free treatment in more than 80 private hospitals and private nursing homes.
‘Rajiv Gandhi Shilpi Swasthya Bima Yojana’ by Textile Ministry: for weavers.
‘Niramaya’ by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment: for BPL families.

3. Private sector: directly or through group health insurance for their employees.

4. ‘Karnataka Yeshavini co-operative farmers’ health insurance scheme: championed by Dr. Devi Shetty without any insurance tie-up.

5. ‘Rajiv Aarogyasri’ by the Government of Andhra Pradesh for BPL families: a Public Private Partnership initiative between Government, Private insurance and Medical community.

6. Individual health insurance policies.

7. External Aid like, Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation, Clinton Foundation etc.

Grossly inadequate health care financing in India, out of pocket expenses being over 70%:

Proportion of healthcare expenditure from financing source in India has been reported as follows:

• Central Government: 6%
• State Government: 13%
• Firms: 5%
• Individual Health Insurance: 3.5%
• Out of pocket by individual household: 72.5%

Need for Health Insurance for all strata of society to address the issue of affordability:

Even after leveraging IT for ‘cyber healthcare diagnosis’ and having low priced quality medicines made available from ‘Jan Aushadhi’ outlets of DoP, healthcare financing to make healthcare delivery affordable to a vast majority of the population will be an essential requirement.

According to a survey done by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), 40% of the people hospitalised in India borrow money or sell assets to cover their medical expenses. A large number of populations cannot afford to required treatment at all.

Hence it is imperative that the health insurance coverage is encouraged in our country by the government through appropriate incentives. Increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases and rising medical costs further emphasise the need for health insurance. Health insurance coverage in India is currently estimated at just around 3.5% of the population with over 70% of the Indian population living without any form of health coverage.


Therefore, in my view an integrated approach by leveraging IT, appropriately structured Health Insurance schemes for all strata of society, supported by well and evenly distributed ‘Jan Aushadhi’ outlets, deserves consideration by the Government. A detail and comprehensive implementable plan is to be prepared towards this direction to address the pressing issue of improving ‘Access to Affordable Integrated Healthcare’ to a vast majority of population in India, if not to ALL.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.