[Ip-health] As Novartis shareholders meet, MSF urges company to drop court case in India

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Feb 23 01:26:41 PST 2012

As Novartis shareholders meet today in Basel, Switzerland for the company's
Annual General Meeting, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges them to
consider the stakes on the company's patent law challenge in India's
Supreme Court and ask the company to drop the case.

For more information on the case, please see the following background

Q and A on India's patent law and the Novartis case:
Timeline of the Novartis case:
Briefing document: What Novartis says and why it's wrong   (
Stop Novartis campaign: http://www.msfaccess.org/STOPnovartis/)


*As Novartis shareholders meet, MSF urges company to drop court case in

*A Novartis win could severely restrict production of affordable medicines
in India*

*BASEL**, 23 February 2012* – As shareholders of Swiss pharmaceutical
company Novartis meet today in Basel, Switzerland, the international
medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on
shareholders to urge the company to drop its ongoing court case against the
Indian government. MSF is concerned that the case could have a severe
impact on access to affordable medicines for people across the developing

“Shareholders at this meeting need to know what the stakes are on this case
and what the consequences will be,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, MSF’s
International President. “We are asking Novartis once and for all to stop
this legal battle in India that is a direct attack on the pharmacy of the
developing world. We will not stand by silently and watch our source of
affordable medicines dry up in the future —we rely on these drugs to do our
work in more than 60 countries today.”

The hearing is scheduled to take place before India’s Supreme Court in
March, and India’s Attorney General has just been appointed to defend the
case for the government.

“The implications of this case reach far beyond India and far beyond this
particular cancer drug,” said Leena Menghaney, Manager for MSF’s Access
Campaign in India. “Novartis shareholders need to question the company’s
attempt to break a system on which millions of people in developing
countries rely on for affordable treatment. We urge Novartis investors to
tell the company to drop the case.”

Novartis first sued the Indian government in 2006, after a patent the
company was seeking for the cancer drug *imatinib mesylate* was rejected.
India grants product patents in line with international trade rules since
2005, but in the interest of public health, India’s law is strict about
what does and does not deserve a patent. Patents are not granted on
modifications of drugs that already exist. Because *Imatinib mesylate *was
the salt form of imatinib, the original invention behind the cancer drug,
it was not granted a patent.

Since then, Novartis has been attacking this part of India’s patents law –
called Section 3(d) - in the courts.  After losing a legal battle to have
Section 3(d) removed from India’s patent law in 2007, the company is now
trying a new legal tactic to weaken it.

A Novartis win will lead to Indian patent offices granting patents on
modifications to drugs which would otherwise remain off-patent in India.
This would take the substance out of a public health provision which has
already demonstrated its importance in securing affordable access to key
HIV, TB and cancer medicines.

MSF has launched a Stop Novartis social media campaign to draw attention to
the implications of the case and to call on the company to back down.
other civil society organizations including Act Up, Oxfam and the Berne
Declaration, MSF is protesting against the company’s actions outside the
shareholder meeting in Basel and outside of Novartis headquarters in New

*Generic medicines produced in India make up 80% of the HIV drugs MSF uses
to treat 170,000 people in 19 countries.


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


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