2 Apr 2013

India's ruling on drug patent case welcomed

10:50 am on 2 April 2013

Healthcare groups have welcomed the Indian Supreme Court's rejection of an application by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis for patent protection of a new cancer drug.

In a landmark ruling, the court rejected an attempt by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to win patent protection for an updated version of its leukaemia drug Glivec.

The court upheld the view of India's patent office which was that Glivec was not vastly different from an earlier version, the ABC reports.

The decision allows generic drugmakers to continue to sell copies of the drug at a lower price in India.

The drug costs about $US2600 a month while its generic equivalent is available in India for $US175.

Aid agency Medecins sans Frontieres said the ruling will save millions of lives across the developing world because it means makers of generic drugs can continue to sell cheaper versions of the medecine.

Lawyer Anand Grover, representing the Cancer Patients Aid Association which opposed Novartis in the patent case, said the ruling would go a long way in providing affordable medicine for the poor.

Novartis India Ltd, a unit of the Swiss drugmaker, has condemned the judgment.

Managing director Ranjit Shahani said it would discourage medical innovation. "The primary concern that we have of course is India's non-recognition of intellectual property rights which sustain research and development."