Scare of Avian Flu Revisits India: A Bumpy Road Ahead
With the threat of an avian flu pandemic once again looming over eastern India, issues regarding patents and affordability and accessibility of drugs have taken center stage. The key priority of India should be to remain prepared to address the public health crisis effectively, by stockpiling the drug tamiflu so that it can be easily distributed and administered to the needy.
India had been confronted with a serious threat of avian flu in 2005-06, but past experience shows that, despite having some of the broadest and most comprehensive compulsory patent licensing laws, India's policymaking elite shied away from fully exploiting these legal 'flexibilities.' Fortunately, the danger of avian flu did not turn into a substantial public health crisis that year.
Under this backdrop, this paper explores various ‘flexibilities’ available in the Indian patent law and suggests short term and long term strategies to effectively tackle the impending danger of an avian flu pandemic, and similar public health crises in future. This paper will discuss potential areas of conflict between the indigenous generic drug firms and the multi-national companies with respect to TRIPS compliance in the event that these flexibilities are exploited. This paper also highlights the administrative constraints and the economic viability of the compulsory licensing system. Finally, this paper shows how political will is often more critical than having well documented provisions in statute books to respond to such situations effectively.
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