M A I N   N E W S

Novartis loses case, Indian firms have edge
SC rejects Swiss pharma giant’s cancer drug patent plea 
Verdict to prevent steep hike in prices

R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 1
In a landmark verdict that will check steep hikes in the prices of life saving drugs, the Supreme Court today rejected Swiss pharma giant Novartis’ plea for a patent on cancer medicine Glivec/Gleevec.

A Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai held in a 97-page judgment that the cancer drug being manufactured by Novartis AG was not the result of any invention and as such did not deserve a patent.

The patent plea “fails in both the tests of invention and patentability” as provided under the relevant sections of Indian patents law, the SC ruled.

The Novartis case was closely monitored by global drug manufacturers and a verdict in favour of the Swiss company would have opened the flood gates for frivolous applications seeking patent for several drugs. Grant of patent on any drug prevents other companies to make use of the formulation, thereby resulting in monopoly and cost escalation.

A victory for Novartis in the SC would have thus affected the status of India as a major hub for production of generic versions of cheaper medicines for life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS which is benefiting patients within the country as well as developing nations across the globe which are importing them from India.

At one point of time, the cost of generic cancer medicines produced by Indian companies was less than eight per cent of Novartis’ Gleevec.

The SC said it was unfortunate that the “scope of the patent is determined not on the intrinsic worth of the invention but by the artful drafting of its claims by skillful lawyers” and that patents “are traded as a commodity not for production and marketing of the patented products but to search for someone who may be sued for infringement of the patent.”

Novartis described the SC ruling as a “setback for patients” as it would hinder medical progress that would deprive patients of effective treatment options. On the other hand, domestic drug manufacturers represented by Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) and Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA) welcomed it, stating that it had come as a relief to patients suffering from dreadful diseases.

Novartis had come to the Supreme Court in 2009 challenging the order of the Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejecting its claim for patent.






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