News / Asia

Swiss Company Loses Drug Patent Case in India

People gather at Novartis India headquarters in Mumbai April 1, 2013.
People gather at Novartis India headquarters in Mumbai April 1, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
In a landmark judgment, India’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected a patent for a cancer drug produced by a Swiss pharmaceutical company. The ruling is seen as a huge boost for availability of affordable drugs to treat deadly diseases, but a big blow to Western pharmaceutical companies fighting for more stringent patent protection in India, a hub for generic drugs.

The seven-year legal battle between Novartis and Indian authorities drew to a close Monday when the court said that the cancer-fighting drug Glivec did not satisfy the test of “novelty or inventiveness" required by Indian law to justify a patent.

Novartis sought a patent calling the updated version of Glivec a huge advance on the earlier drug. India, however, says Glivec is not a new drug but an amended version of a known medicine. Glivec is used to treat leukemia and is patented by many countries.   

A lawyer for the Cancer Aid Patients Association in New Delhi, Anand Grover, said India’s patent law is stricter than in many countries and only grants patents for genuine inventions.  “It does not allow new forms of known substances to be patented unless they are significantly more efficacious,” Grover stated.

The case is widely seen as a high-stakes battle between Western pharmaceutical companies that want a stricter patent regime in India and global health care activists fighting to safeguard the availability of affordable drugs produced by India’s thriving generic industry.

Health care activists are jubilant with the supreme court ruling. Doctors Without Borders says it protects public health and will ensure that millions of people across the globe are not cut off from a supply of affordable drugs used to treat deadly diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer.
   
“India produces 80 percent of the generic medicines that are used in lower and middle income countries," said Jennifer Kohn, medical director at Doctors Without Borders in Geneva. "In order for us to be truly to be able to access important life saving medicines to treat our patients, we need access to these lower cost generic versions.”

The price difference between generic and branded drugs is huge - a month’s dosage of branded Glivec, for example, costs about $ 2,500 compared to about $175 for generics in India.



Drug companies are discouraged by the ruling. Novartis has expressed concerns about India’s “growing non-recognition of intellectual property." Ranjit Shahani heads the India operations of the Swiss company.   

“It is not very encouraging and shows that the ecosystem to encourage innovation does not exist in India…we have seen that investments in R and D [research and development] centers since 2005, since we have had a patent law in place, all, every single one without exception has gone to China," Shahani explained. "So this gravitation of investment needs to come to India.”  

The court’s ruling is also a setback to other multinationals involved in patent disputes in India. India has not hesitated in allowing local production of expensive medicines.  Last year, it gave the go-ahead to a local manufacturer to make a generic version of a cancer drug made by Bayer, citing the need to make medicines available to people at affordable costs.

Multinational drug companies see the Indian law as a way of circumventing patent rights and argue inadequate patent protection will discourage innovators.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
April 01, 2013 9:56 PM
The decision of the Supreme Court of India, not to allow patent for minor modifications of existing known medications, is good for the poor people who cannot afford exhorbitant price for certain medicines. Just because a few countries granted patent for a modified version of a known drug, does not mean that such patents are valid in many other countries. Every country has their own patent rules. There is need for a strict international clearing house of patents for pharmaceuticals, so that the pharmaceutical companies need not register the patents from country to country. The international patent should be valid in countries forming the international clearing house for pharmaceutical patents and acceptable to other countries. Many countries insist that the medicines should be tested in their countries, even if exhaustive research is done in other countries, adding the cost of pharmaceuticals everywhere.

The ten-fold difference in the price of patented pharmaceuticals can be reduced if the generic manufacturers or foreign patent holder can produce the drug locally in India. Yet the price difference is enormous. For example, the Vics Inhaler, manufactured by Vics (India), cost less than half a dollar in India. But the same Vics Inhaler manufactured in the US cost more than 5 dollars, about ten times difference, reflecting the very low cost of production and price countrol in India.

If the medicine is for treatment of rare diseases in few people, the cost of the pharmaceuticals will remain very high everywhere, because the pharmaceutical manufacturer has to recover the huge cost of research, development and manufacture from a few patients.

Without patent protection, no pharmaceutical company will spent millions of dollars, many times reaching billion dollar mark, in R & D to produce innovative medicine, especially for rare diseases in few patients and the cost of such medicines will remain high.

How many innovative effective medicines are discovered by India pharmaceutical compnies? India thrive on generic pharmaceuticals, but an effective innovative medicine from India is still far from the horizon.

Patent protection of pharmaceuticals is not an open voucher for the pharmaceutical manufacturers to charge exhorbitant price for medicines in any country.

by: licalgado from: Orlando, FL
April 01, 2013 12:57 PM
As it is thing, India is a free copy market.......

I think so, to pay, when the opportuny are come,... with the same medice. I bet the India complain about it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More