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      IT, drug firms press for data security norms

      Posted AtBusiness Standard

      Data protection seems to be the flavour of the season with both IT and pharmaceutical companies lobbying for a comprehensive regulatory framework.

      "The US provides for data protection for a period of five years, while the EU has 6-10 years of protection. Similar standards are required in India as well," said John Fennerty, deputy economic counsellor, US Embassy.

      Pre-grant patent opposition, patentability criteria, clause on "incremental innovation" in the Patents Act and loosely-defined ground for "compulsory licence" were outlined as some of the other concerns of the research-based pharmaceutical companies.

      In a day-long symposium organised by the Healthcare & Industry Information Centre on the impact of the Patents Act on pharmaceutical industry, representatives of the multi-national pharma companies said some of the provisions in the amended Act made it a "plus" for generic domestic pharma companies while the "minuses" were loaded against them.

      Eli Lilly India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Gulati felt that the excessive caution against the whole patents regime was uncalled for."Investment in Research & Development by both the domestic and MNC companies is 40 per cent more than what it was last year and it will continue being that way. A strong patent regime is in the interest of both," he said.

      About 98 per cent of the drugs were off-patents. So, pharma industry executives said, lapses in patents law would lead to reduced R&D activities, thus causing a fall in the number of new drugs for the future. This would hurt the long-term interests of consumers.

      Fennerty said there was a clear correlation between intellectual property rights (IPR) regime and economic growth.

      "Italy, Canada, China, Korea, Mexico have seen investments rising in R&D, after they adopted strong IPR regimes. The question is not whether India is TRIPS-complaint or not, but whether it is fully equipped to grow and innovate for its own prosperity."

      However, Dr S Narayan, a former principal economic advisor to the PM, underlined the importance of public grants.

      He explained that poor man's diseases would never receive attention by the research pharma companies as there would not be enough market for them to recover their costs. Hence, the presence of a patents regime or the lack of it would not make a difference, he added.

      October 14, 2005


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