India rejects Novartis’ cancer drug patent appeal
Novartis’ plea to patent an updated version of its cancer drug Glivec has been rejected by India’s Supreme Court.
The Indian authorities have rejected the appeal on the grounds that Novartis’ new version of Glivec (imatinib) was only slightly different from the original. However, Novartis had argued it was entitled to a patent for the amended version, because the original patented compound was never suitable for making into a pill.
Glivec, or Gleevec as it’s known in the United States, is a targeted therapy that treats some forms of leukemia and gastrointestinal cancer, as well as some other rare tumors.
This decision means that generic drugmakers can continue to sell copies of the drug at a cheaper price in India. Glivec costs about $2,600 (£1,710) a month, however the generic equivalent is currently available in India for just US $175 (£115).
While this decision cements the role of local companies as big suppliers of inexpensive generics to India’s fast-growing $13 billion-a-year drugs market, it also sparks fresh concerns that pharma companies will stop investing in the country.
“This ruling is a setback for patients that will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options.
“We hope that the ecosystem for intellectual property in the country improves.”
Ranjit Shahani, vice-chairman and managing director of Novartis India.
India’ Supreme Court also recently rejected Bayer’s patent protection appeal for its cancer drug Nexavar (Sorafenib).
Low-Cost Drugs in Poor Nations Get a Lift in Indian Court (New York Times)
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