[Ip-health] Times of India: Health Ministry ups ante against patents

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jul 24 02:25:56 PDT 2013


Health ministry ups ante against patentsJul 23, 2013, 06.27AM IST TNN[
Sidhartha ]

NEW DELHI: The health ministry has asked for a cancellation of patent
to Trastuzumab - a medicine which treats a form of breast cancer - using a
rarest of the rare provision in the Indian Patents Act. The move comes
after the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) turned down
a plea for a compulsory licence, or suspension of the patent, to make the
medicine more affordable.

Industry department has also opposed the move to cancel the patent of Swiss
drug major Roche, arguing that it was already facing post-grant opposition
in the Patents Office. The health ministry had suggested that the
government use powers under section 66 of the Indian Patents Act to revoke
the patent in public interest.

The government has used the provision to revoke patents only twice. In
1994, it cancelled a patent given to a US firm for developing cotton cells
by tissue culture while last year it used the power for a medicine made of
jamun, lavangpatti and chandan meant to treat diabetes.

Besides, the government does not want to use power available with it to
meet all demands, given the international scrutiny such actions face.
Already, the use of compulsory licence provisions for a renal cancer
medicine, for which Bayer has a patent, to bring down the cost has put the
spotlight on Indian policymakers. Similarly, developed countries, led by
the US, have been critical of other provisions in the Indian Patents Act
that allow the patent controller not grant exclusive rights in case of
tweaking or "evergreening".

In a landmark ruling involving Novartis's anti-cancer drug Glivec, the
Supreme Court upheld the validity of the provisions to check frivolous
patents. The Indian government has argued that these flexibilities are
provided under the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, an association of breast cancer
survivors and civil society groups, had written to the government seeking
use of compulsory licence provisions to lower the cost of the medicine from
around Rs 8 lakh for a full course of 12 injections. There have been
demands that the drug should be offered free in government hospitals.

Under TRIPS, a government can issue a compulsory licence, which allows a
company to manufacture or sell a patented drug to meet national health

Earlier this year, the health ministry had asked for the use of compulsory
licence provisions for Trastuzumab, along with Ixabepilone and Dasatinib,
which are also anti-cancer medicines. While patent suspension for
Trastuzumab has been ruled out, a final decision on the other two drugs is

More information about the Ip-health mailing list