Leak on free trade agreement with India: Switzerland protects pharma at the expense of the poorest patients

According to recent media reports, Switzerland and its EFTA partners are close to finalising a free trade agreement with India. A leak suggests that it contains provisions that would have a devastating impact on access to lifesaving medicines for people in India and many other low and middle-income countries. Switzerland must urgently change its negotiating course.

Urgent appeal to Guy Parmelin, Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, Ignazio Cassis and the State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Helene Budliger Artieda.

According to a leak from 12 February 2024, the agreement currently being negotiated behind closed doors contains restrictive and harmful demands from Switzerland with regard to intellectual property, for example requirements such as regulatory data exclusivity of at least six years, which go beyond the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

India is TRIPS-compliant and none of these so-called TRIPS-plus provisions demanded by Switzerland are required under the WTO agreement. Provisions that go beyond existing patent monopolies, such as a regulatory data exclusivity regime, would have a devastating impact on access to lower-cost versions of newer medicines for people in India or other low and middle-income countries (LMIC) that rely on the supply of more affordable, quality-assured generic medicines produced in India.

Unnecessary and harmful 

India counts for less than 1% of Switzerland's total pharmaceutical exports. It is obvious that Switzerland is inappropriately protecting its pharmaceutical industry and strengthening its monopoly rights - at the expense of patients in India and other countries in the global South.

Today, Public Eye sent an urgent appeal to the Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin, the Minister of Health Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis and the State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Helene Budliger Artieda, calling on Switzerland not to include any devastating TRIPS-plus provisions in the negotiations. In its impact assessment on its free trade agreement with India, the EU, which is also in negotiations, comes to the clear conclusion that TRIPS-plus clauses should not be included in order not to jeopardise access to medicines - and thus the right to health - in developing countries. Switzerland has not even carried out a (publicly accessible) impact assessment.