Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Novartis, drop that case!

In August 2005 I had written two articles on this blog on the rewriting of the Indian patent laws using the controversy surrounding Gleevec, an anti-cancer drug by Novartis to illustrate the issue. Under the new patent regime, large pharmaceutical companies could take out product patents which would allow them to monopolise production of new drugs and increase prices.

In January 2006, Novartis' patent application for Gleevec was rejected on the grounds that the drug was a new form of an old drug and therefore was not patentable under Indian law. This enabled patients with certain cancers to access the drug at a price of around Rs. 9000 ($200) a month as opposed to a price of 1,15,000 ($2600) which was the price of the drug elsewhere.

Currently Novartis is suing the Indian Government in order to have the patent decision overturned so that it can sell Gleevec at the same price in India as in other countries. If Novartis wins the case and succeeds in getting the provision of Indian law changed to resemble patent laws in wealthy countries, it could mean that fewer and possibly no generic versions of newer drugs will be able to be produced by Indian manufacturers during the first 20 years after discovery of a drug and India will no longer be able to supply much of the developing world with cheap essential medicines.

Sign a petion to demand that Novartis drop its case against the Indian Government.

Read more about the issue at the Medecins Sans Frontieres site.

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