[Ip-health] New York Times: Top Court in India Rejects Novartis Drug Patent
thiru at keionline.org
Mon Apr 1 00:31:59 PDT 2013
Top Court in India Rejects Novartis Drug Patent
By GARDINER HARRIS
Published: April 1, 2013
NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court rejected a Swiss drug maker’s patent application for a major cancer drug Monday in a landmark ruling that allows cheap copies of important medicines to continue being distributed in much of the world.
The ruling allows Indian generic companies to continue making copycat versions of the Novartis drug Gleevec, which can have a miraculous effect on some forms of leukemia.
But the ruling’s effect will be felt well beyond the limited number of patients in India who need Gleevec because it will help maintain India’s role as the world’s most important provider of cheap medicines, which is critical in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Novartis had hoped that India’s adoption under international pressure of a new patent law would lead the country to grant the company an exclusive license to produce Gleevec, which can cost up $70,000 per year. Indian generic versions cost about $2,500 year.
But the court’s ruling confirmed that India’s criteria for the granting of such patents remain far higher than those in the United States, where patents are so easy to win that one was given in 1999 for a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. Which country’s patent system does more to protect the sick and encourage invention has become an increasing source of international debate.
In recent decades, the United States has become increasingly insistent that countries wishing to do business there adopt far more stringent patent protection rules, with the result that poorer patients often lose access to cheap generic copies of medicines when their governments undertake trade agreements with the United States.
The ruling Monday is bound to be seen with some concern by the United States and the international pharmaceutical industry and may be yet another blow to India’s standing among major multinational companies, many of whom view protection of their intellectual property as vital to their business interests.
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