[Ip-health] Indian supreme court delivers verdict in Novartis case - MSF responds

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Apr 1 05:42:33 PDT 2013

India's Supreme Court has today ruled on the long-standing challenge to
India's patent law by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. The full
judgment can be read here:
http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgs1.aspx?filename=40212 (PDF download).

Médecins Sans Frontières responds to the verdict with the below press

*Indian supreme court delivers verdict in Novartis case** *

*Decision safeguards access to affordable medicines and prevents abusive
patenting of medicines*


 *New Delhi/Geneva, 1 April 2013* – The landmark decision by the Indian
Supreme Court in Delhi to uphold India's Patents Act in the face of the
seven-year challenge by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is a major
victory for patients' access to affordable medicines in developing
countries, the international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors
Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated today.

“This is a huge relief for the millions of patients and doctors in
developing countries who depend on affordable medicines from India, and for
treatment providers like MSF," said Dr Unni Karunakara, MSF International
President. “The Supreme Court's decision now makes patents on the medicines
that we desperately need less likely. This marks the strongest possible
signal to Novartis and other multinational pharmaceutical companies that
they should stop seeking to attack the Indian patent law.”

India began granting patents on medicines to comply with international
trade rules, but designed its law with safeguards – including a clause
known as Section 3(d) - that prevent companies from abusing the patent
system. Section 3(d) prevents companies from gaining patents on
modifications to existing drugs, in order to ever extend monopolies.

Novartis first took the Indian government to court in 2006 over its 2005
Patents Act because it wanted a more extensive granting of patent
protection for its products than offered by Indian law. In a first case
before the High Court in Chennai, Novartis claimed that the Act did not
meet rules set down by the World Trade Organization and was in violation of
the Indian constitution. Novartis lost this case in 2007, but launched a
subsequent appeal before the Supreme Court in a bid to weaken the
interpretation of the law and empty it of substance. All of Novartis's
claims have been rejected by the Supreme Court today.

“Novartis's attacks on 3(d), one the elements of India's patent law that
protect public health, have failed,” said Leena Menghaney, India Manager
for MSF’s Access Campaign. “Patent offices in India should consider this a
clear signal that the law should be strictly applied, and frivolous patent
applications should be rejected.”

Although Novartis’s repeated legal attacks on 3(d) were aiming to ensure
even more patents were granted in India including on existing medicines, the
company has raised concerns about the implications of the decision on the
larger question of financing of medical innovation.

“At the moment medical innovation is financed through high drug prices
backed up by patent monopolies, at the expense of patients and governments
in developing countries who cannot afford those prices,” said Dr
Karunakara. “Instead of seeking to abuse the patent system by bending the
rules and claiming ever longer patent protection on older medicines, the
pharmaceutical industry should focus on real innovation, and governments
should develop a framework that allows for medicines to be developed in a
way that also allows for affordable access. This is a dialogue that needs
to happen. We invite Novartis to be a part of the solution, instead of
being part of the problem.”

- ends -

Kind regards


*Joanna Keenan*
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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