Cow Urine: Just Another Bodily Fluid or India’s Next Chance to Pushback Against Big Pharma?

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:18:41


By Kristen Daly |

In Hinduism and in India itself, thanks in part to the current ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, cows are considered sacred animals. However, the significance of the cow dramatically increased at the turn of the twenty-first century when the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, endorsed the use of cow-urine as treatment for infections, diabetes, cancer and DNA damage.[1] Unlike the Intellectual Property Laws of most developed nations, India’s National intellectual Property Rights policy does not allow patents for “natural substances, traditional remedies, frivolous inventions or marginal innovations.”[2] Therefore, although the Indian government has patented cow urine remedial technology internationally, such patents are not accepted in India itself.

Its’ strict patent laws regarding medicine serve as a main reason India has become one of the world’s largest generic drug producers.[3] Patents grant property rights to the inventor for twenty years. This right excludes others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention covered by the patent. Therefore, once a drug patent expires, other manufacturers and drug companies are able to produce and distribute generic versions of the drug, thus lowering the price of medications and making them more affordable. Yet, developing nations continue to be plagued with disease; why? The answer that should come to the minds of most is: Big Pharma.

Big Pharma business mainly relies on patenting minor adjustments to already existing drugs then obtaining a patent for the “new” drug. Using this method, major pharmaceutical companies are not only able to drastically increase their financial gains while expelling little work and research, but also able to prevent cheaper, generic versions of their drug from being produced.[4] This is the type of loop holing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s Intellectual Property policies hope to avoid.

The issue this raises is one of public health. Governments are established to enact policies that are deemed to be effective in promoting public health and public welfare. Yet, as patents for meaningless drug formula changes are granted and the price for live-saving medication continues to increase, it is hard to state that current patent regulations for pharmaceuticals work in the interest of the people. With India emerging as a market aimed at decreasing healthcare costs and increasing public access to drugs, it is clear that patenting a naturally occurring remedy like cow urine will prove more harm than good.

On a larger scale, the pushback from countries like India and South Africa against big pharmaceutical companies should cause the WTO, USPTO, EPO and other major organizations to look inward at their own policies and ask the question: at what point did we place a price on people’s lives?

[1] Prabhala, Achal, and Sudhir Krishnaswamy. “Mr. Modi, Don’t Patent Cow Urine.” New York Times, June 16, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016.

[2] Id.

[3] Michelle Chen. “Patents Against People: How Drug Companies Price patients out of Survival.” Dissent Magazine, Fall 2013. Accessed July 13, 2016.

[4] Prabhala, Achal, and Sudhir Krishnaswamy. “Mr. Modi, Don’t Patent Cow Urine.”