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About the Hands Off Campaign

What is the Campaign?
“Europe! Hands Off Our Medicine” is MSF’s campaign to stop Europe from pursuing aggressive policies that will harm people’s access to life-saving medicines across the developing world. 
Right now the most immediate danger comes from the negotiations underway between the European Union and India over a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  From the outset the European Commission has pushed to include provisions that would undermine India’s generic drugs industry from delivering affordable medicines on which we and many others rely to treat patients in developing countries. At MSF we buy 80% of our HIV medicines from India - medicines that keep 170 000 people alive today.
Data Exclusivity dumped …but Investment Chapter hazard remains
Following an amazing international mobilisation of support for the campaign that saw large and noisy street protests in India, Nepal, Brussels, Thailand and Kenya, one harmful provision in the deal, data exclusivity, has now been thrown out.
This provision – the data exclusivity provision -  would have allowed a pharmaceutical company to stop others referring to the data it generated on the safety and efficacy of a medicine for a period of up to ten years - meaning that other manufacturers would not have been able to register and sell their versions of this medicine. The provision was an attempt to get a monopoly on company products through the back door, since it would have applied to medicines that did not even deserve a patent! With India now saying that it won’t accept this policy, data exclusivity is off the negotiating table, allowing more affordable generic versions of drugs to continue to be produced and sold.
So far so good -  however we still need to keep the pressure up because there are further hazards lurking, in particular the so-called investment chapter and ‘enforcement provisions’ which are now the target of our campaigning activities. The provisions in the investment chapter, would allow EU companies to sue the Indian government if they feel their profits are under threat by any government action.  For example, if India decided to override a medicine patent so that more affordable generics could be produced, which is fully legal under international trade rules, a pharmaceutical company could sue the Indian government in closed-door proceedings for loss of profits running to millions of dollars.  This sounds unreal, but such cases are currently being threatened against the governments of Australia and Uruguay by the big tobacco companies on the same grounds, and using the same tools.
Dangerous confusion over ‘counterfeit’ goods
The enforcement provisions that accompany this deal are equally dangerous. We have witnessed very recently the impact of these kinds of provisions when legitimate generic HIV/AIDS medicines in transit through Europe on their way from India to destinations in the developing world were seized by EU customs officers on the false grounds that they were ‘counterfeit medicines’.  Such provisions need to be taken out of this trade agreement.
Why is MSF involved?
Without access to affordable quality generic medicines, we could not be able to achieve any where near as much as we do as a medical organisation  - 80 percent of all of the AIDS medicines we use to treat over 170 000 people living with HIV/AIDS in 24 countries come from Indian generic drug manufacturers.  And it’s not only HIV/AIDS medicines at stake, MSF uses generic medicines from the same sources to treat other diseases too such as tuberculosis and malaria.
If policies being pushed by European officials are successful, then people across the developing world who are currently receiving treatment and living healthy, active lives could have their life-line of affordable medicines cut off.
“We cannot remain silent as Europe works to close the door on every aspect of drug supply – the production of a generic medicine, its registration, and its transportation to patients in other parts of the world. That’s why we are launching this campaign demanding ‘Europe! HANDS OFF our medicine.” -- Dr. Unni Karunakara, President of MSF’s International Council
What is the goal of the Campaign?
We want to see ALL the harmful provisions in the current EU India FTA negotiations thrown out ; data exclusivity, the investment chapter and intellectual property enforcement measures.  We’re not against free trade deals in principle, but provisions that threaten to undermine public health priorities and put profits before people’s lives must be taken out.
Looking Ahead
Beyond the immediate target of the EU India FTA, we are also monitoring other free trade agreements, not only other bilateral EU trade treaties but other international trade agreements such as ACTA, the secret international anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, where similar harmful provisions have been inserted into negotiations that could damage people’s access to medicines.
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