News / Health

India's Cancer-Drug Ruling Likely to Have Global Impact

People gather at Novartis India headquarters in Mumbai April 1, 2013.
People gather at Novartis India headquarters in Mumbai April 1, 2013.
Jessica Berman
A landmark ruling by India’s high court this week struck down a bid by Swiss drugmaker Novartis to extend patent protection for its cancer drug, Glivec.

The decision is seen as a blow to Western pharmaceutical companies seeking to protect their financial interests.  Experts say it could embolden pharmaceutical companies in other countries hoping to produce generic versions of name-brand medications.  That could mean wider availability of the less expensive drugs throughout the developing world.

India is not the only country manufacturing generic versions of important and popular drugs.  Argentina and the Philippines have passed strict laws limiting the patent protections on name-brand drugs developed by U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies, including medications to treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
 
Patents allow companies that develop a drug to maintain exclusive rights to sell it at a higher price for an extended period of time, in order to recoup their research and development costs.  Western pharmaceutical firms say those returns are essential to their ability to develop new and better medicines.

In the India case, which has been wending its way through the country’s judicial system for 7 years, Novartis failed to convince the high court that it had made changes to Glivec, its widely used leukemia drug, significant enough to warrant extending its patent and exclusive marketing rights.

Tahir Amin is a director of the New York-based Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge, a non-profit organization which works on patent cases to increase access to drugs.  Amin says the India case is likely to have far-reaching implications.

“Globally, I think a number of countries will look at this and say, “Well India stood its ground,” and will also realize that actually if India is standing its ground, even though it has a stronger geopolitical standing and can actually probably stand up to the U.S. and Europe a little bit more, I think other countries will also take notice of this and say, 'This is in our public interest and health interest to adopt patent laws that are somewhat similar,'” said Amin.

India exports some $10 billion worth of generic drugs every year and, along with China, produces about 80 percent of the ingredients that are used in the manufacture of drugs in the United States. India also produces generic versions of many popular drugs.

Novartis and other drug companies say the Indian court ruling may force them to pull their research dollars out of India.

Mark Grayson is a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, which represents drug manufacturers.
 
“We’re disappointed in this ruling because we believe that this just shows a further deteriorating innovation environment in India," said Grayson.

Generic drug versions can be sold at a fraction of the cost of brand-name drugs.  For example, Glivec can cost a patient around $70,000 a year, while the Indian generic versions costs around $2,500.
 
Grayson believes patients who can afford a drug like Glivec should pay full price.

“We believe we need to find ways to get economies that are growing to pay their fair share for the new medicines and the cost that it takes to develop a lot of this medicine," he said.

Grayson says 95 percent of the patients in India who can't afford Glivec can get it for free through a so-called "compassionate care" program run by Novartis.

But Tahir Amin of Initiatives for Medicine says cancer patients have reported that it has been difficult to obtain those free drugs.

“If you are going to be at the whim of philanthropy, then I think most people are not going to get drugs," he said. "And we’ve seen that in other cases as well, where they say we have access programs and so on and so forth.  But only a certain percentage of the population or countries get it.”

But with drug development costs sometimes topping $1 billion, PhRMA’s Grayson fears that India’s patent ruling and others that may follow could slow the pace at which critically needed new drugs come to market.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghettoi
X
Kane Farabaugh
August 30, 2014 1:20 AM
When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid