UK-India FTA Sign-On Letter


Le RQMI appuie l’appel à l’action lancé par les organisations de la société civile anglaise et indienne appelant le Royaume-Uni à retirer immédiatement la propriété intellectuelle des négociations et à accroître la transparence sur l’état actuel du texte relatif à la propriété intellectuelle.

Le lettre est uniquement disponible en anglais.


To the British trade minister

Dear Secretary of State,

We write to you as representatives of health organisations, patient groups, civil society and community organisations from across the globe to raise concerns over the negotiations between the UK and India on an ongoing free trade agreement.

The leaked text of a chapter on Intellectual Property (IP) presents serious challenges to access to pharmaceutical products globally.[1] While we recognise that the leaked text may not reflect the current state of demands from the UK on this topic, the lack of transparency leaves us without assurances that all damaging provisions will be removed from the list of demands your team is putting forward.

Inclusion of an IP chapter by the UK in its trade discussions with India impacts global health. India’s  supply of medicines is critical to other developing countries. India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally, accounting for more than twenty per cent of the world’s generic medicine supply and sixty-two per cent of the world’s vaccine supply. Indian-made HIV medicines constitute 80% of Africa’s total consumption.

Therefore, any changes in the IP policies in India has an impact on access to medicines in developing countries and globally. Given the high stakes of this FTA for global health, there is a need for these negotiations to be free from the influence of pharmaceutical companies who have clear conflict of interest promoting provisions in FTAs that increases IP monopolies. UK’s appointment of a chief negotiator who has previously worked with a pharmaceutical corporation for nearly three decades runs counter to this need for impartiality and independence. This is reflected in the leaked text of the IP chapter which reads as the wish list of the multinational bio-pharmaceutical industry vis-a-vis India’s IP system.

India’s current IP laws and medicines registration system allows for a better balance between commercial interests and public health needs while fully adhering to World Trade Organization rules. As a result, India has developed an ecosystem reserving patents for genuinely new compounds while ensuring timely generic competition, on which global health relies.

The significance of generic competition from India for global health should not be underestimated. Generic competition, primarily in India, has helped bring prices for the standard HIV drug cocktail down by 99%, from more than $10,000 in 2000 to less than $100 today, enabling global treatment scale-up to over 28 million people. And it is not just about HIV treatments either. Health ministries with tight public health budgets increasingly rely on affordable treatments supplied by India to fulfil their right to health obligations. Leading global health funds and donors such as the Global Fund, PEPFAR, UNITAID and UNICEF also rely heavily on Indian generic drugs.

Historically, the UK has played a substantial role in supporting health initiatives worldwide. But this legacy is under threat with its attempts to increase IP barriers that put affordable treatments out of reach of countries in the global south .

We are particularly concerned that UK’s demands on IP based on proposals in the leaked text would:

  • Interfere with or limit the right to challenge patents in India before they are granted. This is a vital tool for patients who can challenge poor-quality patent claims that can lead to unjustified monopolies.
  • Enable ‘evergreening’ on known medicines in its patent examination process, which is currently discouraged under India’s examination system. This ensures patents are based on genuine innovation.
  • Require grant of market exclusivities on any clinical data. Such exclusivities are aimed at delaying the marketing of generic medicines by stalling approval by India’s national drug regulatory authority.
  • Require extension of the patent term beyond 20 years.
  • Prevent proactive publication of whether the patentee is fulfilling the social contract of working a pharmaceutical patent in India to meet the needs of the public.
  • Water down the transparency sections in the Indian Patents Act on the status of an application in other jurisdictions that not only benefit disclosure in India but also in patent searches on key medicines by public health organizations across the world.

These and any IP proposals of the UK government that in any way hinders or delays entry of affordable pharmaceutical products in India and globally are absolutely unconscionable.

We call on the UK Government to immediately remove IP from the negotiations and increase transparency on the current status of the IP text. We also call for the resignation of UK’s chief negotiator and the appointment of a new Chief Negotiator independent from pharmaceutical companies so that global health concerns, including access to affordable treatments, are not undermined but treated as priorities.