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India’s Supreme Court has rejected a request by Swiss drug-maker Novartis to patent an updated version of its cancer drug Glivec.
Glivec costs around 2,000 euros per month whereas the domestically produced generic equivalent costs around 140 euros.
The judgement is supported by healthcare activists who want the government to make medicines cheaper.
Neena Manghaney from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said:
“It’s hugely significant because eight million people with HIV are on treatment from India more than 80 percent of these people get these drugs from India.
In the area of HIV, this decision is path breaking. Number 2 is this: By protecting generic competition and abusive practices of pharma companies like Novartis, I think the Supreme Court has safeguarded the rights of patients across the developing world.”
The ruling is a blow to Western firms who are increasingly focusing on India to drive sales.
Pratibha Singh, an advocate for Indian drug-makers, said there is no ambiguity in the Supreme Court’s decision:
“One implication is clear that the Indian provision, Section 3d has been completely upheld ,No1?No2, patent would be granted only for genuine inventions and repetitive patenting will not be allowed.”
This case is a benchmark for several intellectual property disputes in India, where patent drugs are unaffordable for most of its 1.2 billion people, 40 percent of whom live on less than a euro per day.