After TRIPS: can India Remain ‘the pharmacy of the developing world’?

Jagjit Kaur Plahe, Don McArthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


India has long played a key role in supplying low-cost pharmaceuticals to people in developing countries, gaining a reputation as ‘the pharmacy of the developing world’. Yet, changes to India’s intellectual property regime under the World Trade Organization’s 1995 Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement mean that India’s capacity to produce and supply affordable medicines has been undermined. We use a political economy approach to investigate the factors that are determining the future of Indian generic pharmaceutical companies as suppliers of affordable medicines in the ‘post-TRIPS’ environment. We argue that while there is some scope within this environment for legal safeguards to protect access to life-saving medicines, the future of the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’ is in question, not just because of the ownership rights awarded to multinational corporations (MNCs) under the TRIPS framework, but also because of the way the market system is tilted towards MNCs. MNCs can ‘play’ the system locally and across the world, including by exerting pressure on safeguards that India instituted to protect the affordability of medicines. Against this background, we explore the challenges faced by the Indian government in creating an environment that is more likely to ensure access to life-saving medicines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1167-1185
Number of pages19
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • generic drug manufacturing
  • India
  • intellectual property rights (IPRs)
  • medicines
  • MNCs
  • pharmaceuticals
  • right to health

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