[Ip-health] Novartis vs India – Supreme Court hearing comes to an end

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Tue Dec 4 06:00:20 PST 2012

Novartis vs India – Supreme Court hearing comes to an end

After 12 weeks of hearings in India's Supreme Court, Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF) has learnt that final arguments into the Novartis v Union
of India case challenging the interpretation of Section 3d of India's
patent law have today come to an end. During the hearings, which started on
11 September, the two judges presiding over the case heard arguments from
Novartis as to why they deserved a patent on the mesylate salt of the blood
and intestinal cancer drug imatinib. In recent weeks, the judges heard the
counsel for the Indian government, and then representatives for the Cancer
Patient Aid Association on arguments to defend India’s stricter
patentability criteria that discourages patenting of new forms of known

The judges have now retired to consider their verdict; there is no
indication at this stage to suggest when the judges may hand down their

MSF responds:

"With this precedent-setting case nearing its end, we sincerely hope that
the integrity and intention of India's patent law, and Section 3d in
particular, is upheld. India's ability to continue production of affordable
medicines for the developing world depends a great deal on the country's
patentability standards and how they are interpreted by the courts in
India. We will now wait for the judges' verdict to be released".

- Michelle Childs, Director Policy Advocacy, Médecins Sans Frontières
Access Campaign

BackgroundSection 3(d) led to Novartis being denied a patent for imatinib
mesylate (marketed by Novartis as Glivec).  Novartis is contesting the
Indian patent office’s and appellate body’s decisions to reject the
company’s application for a patent on the salt form of imatinib.

A win for Novartis would set a dangerous precedent, severely weakening
India’s legal norms against ‘evergreening’, a common practice in the
pharmaceutical industry. A single medicine can have several applications
pending for separate patents, each relating to a different aspect of the
same medicine. In this case Novartis is pushing for an interpretation of
patentability standards that would inevitably lead to patents being granted
far more widely in the country, blocking the competition among multiple
producers which drives down prices, and restricting access to affordable
medicines for millions in India and across the developing world.

Further information on the case can be found here:
Q and A: http://www.msfaccess.org/content/qa-patents-india-and-novartis-case
Briefing document:

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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