US-India healthcare alliance

US-India healthcare alliance

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 10 June, 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is expected to visit the United States soon in order to confer with President Donald John Trump about how US-India relations can be taken to an unprecedented level through their joint efforts. President Trump needs to avoid the Bush-Obama trap of imposing high and ultimately unaffordable costs on US taxpayers by trying to “Buy American”, when cheaper, better alternatives are available from Asia, especially India. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan begun by George W. Bush were followed by that in Libya and Syria, under the guidance of Barack Obama. These have taken the US economy to the edge of bankruptcy. The only reason why the country is not officially in default is because the dollar is still the global reserve currency. Wisely, successive US governments have refused to demonetise the dollar, even though this is the most counterfeited of currencies. As a consequence, there is a stability and continuity in dollar holdings that is absent in the case of the rupee, which was demonetised last year and may well be again demonetised next year as a consequence of decisions taken jointly by the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of India. That the people of India have withstood the shock of job losses and other costs of demonetisation, is testimony to their confidence in PM Modi, whom they believe will ensure the double digit growth needed to secure jobs. Some of that growth will need to come from trade in services with the US, and healthcare is a segment in which partnership between Delhi and Washington can be of immense value to both sides. Indeed, the US will not be able to afford the cost of universal healthcare for all its citizens, unless the Trump administration does what the Obama administration failed to do, which is to take advantage of the opportunities offered by India in medical services. Whether in transcription or in pharmaceuticals, costs are low, while quality remains high. This is why India has emerged as a major destination for medical tourism, despite powerful lobbies in the US and the EU using medical journals and organisations to conduct a false campaign against this country. In every country, where ultra-rich medical lobbies fleecing the taxpayer carry on propaganda against India, there are doctors and nurses from India who are usually the best to be found.

Making America Great Again is President Trump’s slogan, yet this is not possible unless US citizens have the same quality of healthcare enjoyed by citizens of next-door Canada, that too at a fraction of the cost incurred by the US treasury. A healthy citizenry is crucial to higher productivity, including in the manufacturing and extractive industries that the Trump administration seeks to revive. In such a context, generic medicines from India are the key to affordable healthcare, a fact ignored by the Obama administration in its zeal to do the bidding of Big Pharma in the US and their counterparts in the EU, where too vicious and underhand measures have been resorted to against the generic drugs industry in India. It needs to be added that some decision-makers in this country seem to have been influenced by US and EU Big Pharma, as they are trying to adopt policies that hurt domestic industry and protect the privileges of foreign companies. The greed of such companies can be seen from Turing Pharma AG, where the price of a prescription drug was raised from $13 per dose to $750 per dose, because no substitutes were available. The US Food & Drugs Administration acts as a lobbyist for Big Pharma and keeps competitors from India out of the US market through regulations and other means. The FDA needs to understand that generics industry in India has the capacity to lower healthcare costs substantially in the US, and that tens of millions will benefit at the expense of a handful of billionaires. 

Donald Trump was elected by ordinary citizens to respond to their interests and not that of the billionaire class. Hopefully, within the basket of activities that will be agreed upon by PM Modi and his US counterpart, will be the utilisation of the potential of India to bring down the costs of universal healthcare in the US to affordable levels.

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