Novartis loses patent battle, experts hail court ruling (Roundup)

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) In a ruling lauded by health experts, the Supreme Court Monday dismissed Swiss pharma giant Novartis AG’s petition seeking patent protection for its anti-cancer drug Glivec.

Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai dismissed with cost Novartis’ plea challenging the Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board’s decision declining grant of patent for the drug.

Novartis AG had claimed that it is the inventor of the beta crystalline form of Glivec, or Imatinib Mesylate.

Justice Alam said the claim was “beyond the realm of patents”.

“In whatever way Section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act is interpreted, Novartis cannot claim that it is a patent. It fails the test of patentability,” he said.

The court held that the amended portion of Section 3 (d) was only for genuine inventions.

The patent right was denied to Novartis in 2006 by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.

The legal battle for the patent of the blood cancer drug was closely watched by international pharmaceutical firms.

If the Swiss firm had won the case, Indian firms would have been barred from manufacturing generic drugs.

Health experts welcomed the ruling, saying it would ensure that patients get access to cheaper life-saving drugs.

“This is a landmark judgment. This will have a long-term and wide impact, as the generic version makes it more affordable for the poor,” Y.K. Sapru of the Mumbai-based Cancer Patients Aid Association told IANS.

“Now the prices of life-saving drugs will be reduced from Rs.160,000 per month to just Rs.6,000,” Sapru added.

The judgment allows firms in India to continue making copycat versions of the Novartis drug Glivec.

Sameer Kaul, a senior surgical oncologist at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, also hailed the ruling.

“The government should have stepped in much earlier to negotiate the prices with the company,” Kaul told IANS.

“The government should encourage the local pharmaceutical industry to spend more on research, so that we can develop own molecules. Also, the patent time-period of 20-30 years is absurd. It should not be more than two or three years,” he said.

AIIMS’ P.K. Julka said: “The ruling is good for poor patients. It will ensure continued access to cheap drugs.”

In Mumbai, Novartis AG said the Supreme Court decision will discourage future innovation in India.

Novartis India’s managing director Ranjit Shahani said: “This ruling is a setback for patients that will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options.”

Stating that Novartis will continue to file for patents in India, Shahani said the company will not invest in research and development (R&D) in the country.

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