Here are a few Mashelkar committee related articles and interviews in the latest issue of Frontline:

  1. Dinesh Abrol feels that

    Plagiarism was not the most important charge against the Mashelkar report; it was its bias towards MNCs that was most shocking.

  2. Dr. Yusuf Hamied, Chairman, Cipla Limited tells about the two types of R&D in the world (and makes some interesting observations about the Indian scenario too when it comes to acceptance of new medicines):

    There are two types of R&D [research and development] in the world. One is concept, and the other is `me too’. Now, conceptual research is done essentially by universities, NIH [National Institutes of Health], [and is] government funded. In America, $20 billion is spent in universities and NIH on conceptual research. The multinational pharmaceutical industry, even if it is Pfizer or Bayer, is essentially investing in `me too’ research. Diazepam, the first major tranquiliser [is a] concept drug. Then you have Alprazolam and Lorazepam and Midazapam and Temazepam, and so on, [of the same] family. Typically, the breakthrough drugs normally happen through government-supported venture capital or small companies, and then they get taken over by the big boys. Today, 70 per cent or more of all drugs marketed were not invented by the guys who are selling them. I develop something I can’t sell; I go to Pfizer and ask them to sell it for me. They’ll take it up. Lipitor, the world’s number one drug, was not invented by Pfizer. Ninety per cent of the drugs for HIV were not invented by the originator.In 1987, I came out with Deferiprone, marketed as Kelfer, a drug for thalassemia [an inherited disease of red blood cells]. I thought it would sell well in India; it was an iron chelator. It didn’t sell. So, I go to doctors in India and say here is a drug, why aren’t you using it? [Their response was:] “Dr Hamied, if the drug is as good as you say it is, how come other companies like Pfizer haven’t brought it out?” Even if I do the research, the acceptability is not there. How many countries have come out with a drug on their own steam? None. So, how will I be successful on my own if I bring out a new product? It’s very difficult.

  3. Praful Bidwai minces no words in his criticism of Mashelkar committee report:

    Former Director-General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research R.A. Mashelkar has brought disgrace upon India’s scientific establishment by producing a tawdry, poorly argued, unbalanced and pro-big business report on India’s patents law, at the core of which lies rank plagiarism.

    Further, he also feels that there should no more `expert’ committees (a bit unjustifiably, I feel), and calls for a JPC , a Joint Parliamentary Committee:

    …policy on important issues such as IPR in respect of medicines or computer software cannot be left in the hands of “eminent” scientists and “experts”, many of whom have fallen prey to corporate ways of looking at the world – in which private greed becomes the motive force of innovation, growth and development.We need to take remedial measures – urgently and without hesitation. To start with, the Mashelkar Committee has completely lost its credibility. It would be pointless to replace it with yet another “expert” committee. As the unhappy experience with the Knowledge Commission shows, what we need is less technical expertise and more political clarity and a vision rooted in the public interest.

    It would be best to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which can summon experts whenever necessary but which will be guided by the spirit of the debate on the patents issue in Parliament in April 2005. The JPC should subject experts’ views to the scrutiny of the public interest.

Knowing what some of the parliamentarians have to say about the capabilities of the Indian Pharmaceutical industry, I do not see why JPC will not fall prey to corporate ways of looking at the world.

On the whole, it is good to see that Mashelkar committee fallout is making at least some people question the patents regime, with specific emphasis on the pharmaceutical industry practices and patents.