Indian Company Gains Right to Copy Generic Cancer Drug

India has authorized a domestic pharmaceutical company to manufacture an expensive anti-cancer drug developed by Bayer Corporation. The move undermines Bayer’s patent on the drug, but has been praised by activists because it will make the drug cheaper and more widely available.

Under the ruling by the controller of patents in Mumbai, the Indian drug company, Natco Pharma, can make a generic copy of Nexavar and sell it for a fraction of the price charged by Bayer.

The patented drug is used to treat liver and kidney cancer. The Indian company will sell it for about $175 for 120 tablets compared to approximately $5,500 charged by Bayer. It will pay a royalty to Bayer of six percent. 

The move effectively ends Bayer’s monopoly on the drug. Authorities used a rule under which they can grant a “compulsory license” if a drug is not available at a “reasonably affordable price.” This is the first time India has applied the rule.

The Indian patent controller says the drug was clearly unaffordable to most of the country because very few patients had used it.

Bayer had argued that the price should reflect the development cost and not just the public’s buying power. The company has said it is disappointed with the decision and will evaluate its options to defend its intellectual property rights in India.

The decision has been welcomed by Doctors Without Borders, which campaigns for affordable drugs in poor countries. Leena Menghaney, the group’s manager in New Delhi, says there has to be a balance between intellectual property rights and the right of patients to have access to new and expensive medicines.

“What it shows with the Indian system that it has an independent mechanism," Menghaney. "If there is a problem with the pricing of a patented medicine, there is a redressal in the system. We have not seen this kind of mechanism work in other developing countries and would encourage South Africa and other countries like Thailand to adopt the system where a competitor can come forward to supply a more affordable generic version.”

Pharmaceutical analysts say the ruling could set a precedent for other expensive medicines to be licensed to local companies.

They say that it will be a setback for the multinational drug industry in India. The world’s big drug companies argue that they rely on intellectual property protection to fund the high cost of research. The industry has been pushing for stronger patent protections and rules to clamp down on the Indian generics industry.

In the past decade, India has been providing cheap, life-saving medicines for patients in poor countries who cannot afford drugs at Western prices to treat diseases like HIV and malaria. Most of these are generic copies of drugs protected by patents in the United States and Europe.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Paddy O
March 13, 2012 12:58 PM
Bayer would have been better off just offering it for cheaper in India. Certainly the research costs are fully recouped in the west. With losing control of the patent, they will now have to face the possibility of unauthorized manufacturers exporting it (either illicitly or not) and thus, wiping out even more potential profits. I'm surprised such a gross failure in risk management would occur at a major German company like this.

by: Sharman
March 13, 2012 12:42 PM
Very few people may know that it is Bayer company that sold Methyl Parathion and Ediphenphose deadly toxic crop pesticides in India till 2005 while those were banned in Europe and US many many years ago due to its harmful effects. Every year people got intoxicated and dying in India and Bayer kept on harvesting the highest profits out of these products.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs