September 8, 2010
MSD India’s managing director KG Ananthakrishnan spoke to ET’s Khomba Singh on future strategy and shared his views on the Indian government’s proposals on contentious issues such as compulsory licensing, capping FDI in the sector and reviewing of certain sections of Indian patent laws. Excerpts:
Global drugmakers have lobbied hard for review of controversial Section 3(d) of Indian patent laws and patent linkages. MNCs, including Merck, are yet to publicly voice views on the proposal being evaluated by the government?
We have seen the note floated by the PMO and the commerce ministry (ceiling on foreign investment and compulsory licensing). But, before commenting on it, we have to closely study and analyse it in detail. As a philosophy, we value patents because a huge amount of scientific research, time and investment goes into developing new innovator medicines. The Indian government’s policy reforms in intellectual property rights (India adopted new patent regime in 2005) has been in the right direction and regulation has improved. It may not be picture perfect and there may be arguments and debates on certain sections of the laws.
In such debates, the government tends to go for a populist move, keeping the affordability of medicines in mind. Health experts expect prices of drugs to rise if the proposed changes are made.
We follow a responsible pricing strategy, keeping the Indian patients’ affordability in mind, as we have begun with the launch of our diabetes drug Januvia. We will continue to sell our patented drugs with India-specific pricing.
The health ministry has stopped the clinical trails of MSD and GSK’s cervical cancer vaccines by an NGO, after a few vaccinated girls died. Can it affect sales of your vaccines in the country?
There is no problem with the vaccines and they are available in the retail market. Paediatric and gynaecologist bodies in India have also supported the vaccination against cervical cancer. Since Gardasil (Merck’s vaccine brand) is supplied by us, its safety is entirely our responsibility. We have shared whatever information Indian Council of Medical Research and health authorities have asked for. The health minister of Andhra Pradesh (the state where three girls died, post vaccination) has said on record that the deaths were not linked to the vaccvine. Gardasil is a part of the national immunisation programme of 28 countries. About, 74,000 women or 27% of the global deaths due to the disease are in India as per WHO figures. Cervical cancer is the only cancer that has a vaccine and awareness needs to be spread to save lives.