Novartis lost the battle but lacs of people won!

This is great news but it has almost gone unnoticed last week. Our media which is ever happy reporting unhappy news made only a passing mention to this big news which benefits thousands of poor cancer patients in India. The news I am talking about is the recent landmark judgment by Supreme court rejecting the grant of patent for the cancer drug Glivec to the Swiss multinational company Novartis. This is a drug developed by the MNC for a certain type of blood cancer. A couple of Indian pharma companies developed the generic versions of the drug and the ongoing court battle pertains to grant of patent rights for the drug to the MNC. The apex court has ruled that the invention does not pass the test of novelty. How did the court come to this conclusion? It is based on a unique clause in the Indian Patent Law which disallows ‘ever greening’ of patents. ‘What is ever greening?’ Asked a friend of mine, who is not familiar with patents. I tried to explain in crude Tamil as follows: Pharma MNCs are today like ‘KHALI PERUNGAYA DABBA-  ARACHAMAVAYE ARACHINDIRUKKANGA’. Translated into technical terms, MNCs have run out of ideas in the business of discovering new drug molecules thanks to exhorbitant costs associated with basic research & clinical trials; so they had to come up with a clever ploy to keep extending their patent rights on a drug with minor tweaking of an existing molecule. It is pretty much like reinventing a wheel with minor changes in design or appearance. While the developed countries allow ever greening of patents clearly biased in favour of MNCs, India is the first country to come up with a bold change in the patent law to plug this loophole. Ever greening is almost as ridiculous as introducing a new improved SURF or an improved anti-dandruff shampoo and claiming that no one else should be allowed to manufacture the product.

What are the implications of this judgment? This will result in tremendous savings in costs of treatment for blood cancer. I understand that one month’s treatment of the original drug costs Rs 1 lac plus, while the generic drugs offered by Indian pharma companies cost just one-tenth of that figure! After all, the greed of the MNCs doesn’t recognize the need of the poor!

This anti ever greening clause to reject marginal inventions was drafted by India in the year 1995 and it became a law in the year 2005.  This was subsequently adopted by several developing countries. The good news is that even developed countries like Australia & certain countries from the European Union are considering adopting this clause based on India’s lead & example.

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Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. yes, I saw this news elsewhere too and it surely is a good judgement. I think based on this there was another country that did the same thing. I forget the article which mentioned about that other country but it is good to know this.


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