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Author Topic: NOVARTIS RULING  (Read 1797 times)

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Offline frenchpat

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  • Love your friends, don't eat them.
NOVARTIS RULING
« on: August 06, 2007, 10:46:21 AM »
In the ongoing struggle between big pharma companies and the developping world's need for cheaper medicine, here's an important development:

Update 3-Indian court rejects Novartis patent challenge
 (Adds new quotes, details from court order)
    By S. Murari
    CHENNAI, India, Aug 6 (Reuters) - An Indian court rejected
on Monday a challenge by Novartis to Indian law that denies
patents for minor improvements to known drugs, and the Swiss
drug giant said it was unlikely to appeal.
    The closely-watched case in the Madras High Court had
become a key battle in the long-running war between
multinational drug firms and humanitarian campaigners, who say
"big pharma" is putting patents ahead of patients.
    The court in the southern city of Chennai rejected the
challenge, saying it had no jurisdiction on whether Indian
patent laws complied with intellectual property rules set by
the World Trade Organisation, as Novartis had questioned.
    Novartis had said a part of the law violated the Indian
constitution as it was "vague" and gave arbitrary powers to
patent authorities.
    But the two-judge bench dismissed the challenge, saying
Novartis was "no novice" in pharmacology to not understand a
law that says a patent applicant has to show that the discovery
"resulted in enhancement of known efficacy of the substance".
    The objective of the Indian patent act, they said, was also
to "provide easy access to citizens to lifesaving drugs".
    "We disagree with this ruling, however we likely will not
appeal to the Supreme Court," a Novartis spokeswoman said by
phone from Basel, in Switzerland. "We await the full decision
to better understand the court's position."
    A statement from Novartis said that the ruling would "have
long-term negative consequences for research and development
into better medicines for patients in India and abroad".
    Novartis says the Indian patent system stifles innovation,
such as making a drug more heat-resistant or able to be
swallowed rather than injected.
    Critics say changes to the law would mean drug companies
could extend their monopolies by patenting trivial changes,
affecting the supply of affordable drugs, including anti-AIDS
drugs, to other developing countries from India.
    ADVOCACY GROUPS JUBILANT
    Novartis had gone to the court to challenge a law that
blocks the patenting of minor improvements in known molecules.
    "Novartis brought this case forward because it firmly
believes this was the right thing to do for patients," the
statement said.
    "Effective patent systems ensure incentives are in place
that stimulate long-term research and development efforts
critical for medical progress."
    In April, the same court had also ordered a related
challenge by Novartis to a January decision that rejected its
patent application for a cancer drug, Glivec, be referred to an
appellate board.
    That patent application was turned down because the drug
was a new form of a known substance.
    India is a key source of cheap generic medicines, and
advocacy groups worry that millions of poor people could lose
access to key drugs if Novartis succeeds in its challenge.
    Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the court
order confirmed exactly what it had been saying, that Indian
courts were not the proper forum to raise this issue and
Novartis should settle it at the WTO.
    "We absolutely welcome this court order," said Leena
Menghaney of MSF in India, which has been campaigning against
the Novartis challenge.
    "It means patents will only be granted based on research
and development and not just tinkering around with the old
molecule to make a new form of an old drug.
    "It basically means fewer patents will be granted by the
Indian patent office, and that means more affordable drugs can
be produced by Indian manufacturers."
    The Indian government said in April that it was "very
concerned" that the challenge by Novartis could restrict the
global supply of cheap anti-AIDS drugs.
    India is home to the world's third largest population
living with HIV after South Africa and Nigeria, with an
estimated 2.5 million infected people.
 (Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New Delhi)


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