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India Compulsory License: A Times of India Article Says It's Not Helping the Poor

March 29, 2012
India recently issued a compulsory license on Bayer’s liver and kidney cancer drug (Sorafenib) with the stated goal of providing access to India’s poor. However, the Times of India recently ran the article Cheap generics drugs no panacea for India’s poorest, quickly dispelling this myth:
"The compulsory license system might not really work because poor people cannot even afford the discounted price," said G. Balachandhran, former head of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), India's drug price watchdog regulator.

"Instead of dealing on a case-to-case basis, India needs to have a policy that will bring more and more people under medical cover ... We need to increase the health insurance penetration, so that even poor people can afford treatment," he added.

"Only 15 percent of India's 1.2 billion population is covered by health insurance, according to business lobby group the Federation of Indian Chambers Commerce & Industry, meaning even at a lower price, Nexavar will be out of reach for many.

"Still, the head of Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, told Reuters on March 12 that there were around 100 million people in India with "wealth equivalent to or greater than the average European or American, who don't pay for innovation".

While Natco will profit off someone else’s investment and innovation, it seems the company's compulsory license gift from Indian regulators will do little to help India’s suffering masses.