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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs