Business Today

India grants patent to Pfizer's pneumococcal vaccine

NGO Medicines Sans Frontiers had challenged the patent claims of Pfizer, calling it way to gain market monopoly. The MSF has argued that Indian firms can supply the same vaccine for much less.

twitter-logo Joe C Mathew   New Delhi     Last Updated: August 22, 2017  | 19:17 IST
India grants patent to Pfizer's pneumococcal vaccine

Indian patent office has granted patent protection to US drug major Pfizer's  pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). The decision will strengthen India's position as an intellectual property (IP) rights friendly nation and showcase its patent office as an independently functioning body.

However, the patent grant, to the product which is marketed by Pfizer as Prevnar13, have been flayed by the civil society groups as they fear that the granting of this patent would block other manufacturers in India from supplying this vaccine - which protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria (PCV-13) - to those who need it most.

"It's unfair and unacceptable that almost a million children die each year from pneumonia, even though a life-saving vaccine is available. Children everywhere have a right to be protected from pneumonia, but many governments can't afford the prices set by Pfizer," said Dr Prince Mathew, Asia Regional Coordinator for international health NGO Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF). "We urgently need additional manufacturers to rapidly introduce competition with the aim of lowering vaccine prices."

The NGO had challenged the patent claims of Pfizer in India last year, after the same patent was revoked by the European Patent Office (EPO). The patent is also being legally challenged in South Korea and before the US Patent Trademark Appeal Board.

"The method Pfizer is trying to patent is too obvious to deserve a patent under Indian law, and is just a way to guarantee an extended market monopoly for the corporation for many years to come",  Leena Menghaney, South Asia Head for MSF's Access Campaign, says.

According to MSF, Indian vaccine manufacturers have the ability to supply PCV for a much lower price. However, Pfizer's patent allows it to continue controlling the PCV market in India until 2026, and blocks developing country vaccine manufacturers from supplying a competing version of Pfizer's PCV. Manufacturers will have to find new routes to develop a non-infringing PCV vaccine which may delay the availability of competing products in the pipeline from Indian producers.

MSF also states that the Indian patent office's decision indicates a weakening of India's strict patentability standards, which results in granting monopolies for minor and trivial improvements of existing medical products, as allowed in some other countries. Such ever-greening practices will hamper India's role as 'pharmacy of the developing world,' supplying governments and procurers like MSF with affordable medicines and vaccines, it fears.

Pneumonia is a leading killer of children, accounting for more than a quarter of deaths of children less than five years of age. The vaccine does more than protect those who are vaccinated from life-threatening infections. Studies show that the vaccine lowers antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by bringing down infection in the community and reducing antibiotic use in children. One study estimates that introduction of Hib conjugate and PCV13 to 75 developing world countries could reduce antibiotic use for these diseases by 47 per cent and avert 11.4 million days of antibiotic use in children younger than 5 years old each year.

India has the world's highest burden of pneumonia, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of global pneumonia deaths in children under the age of five. In India, PCV had until recently been available solely in the private market with out-of-pocket price tags beyond the reach of not only vulnerable children and impoverished parents but also the Health Ministry. At present, only two pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are registered by CDSCO and imported into India: Pfizer's Prevnar13 (PCV13) and GSK's Synflorix (PCV10) which are very expensively priced at approximately INR 3,800/dose (approximately USD 59 per dose, with three doses needed for full vaccination) and INR 1,800/dose (approximately USD 28 per dose, with three doses needed for full vaccination) respectively in the private market. No pneumococcal vaccine has been registered from an Indian manufacturer and made available to provide competition to Pfizer and GSK who currently dominate the market internationally and India, MSF states.

ALSO READ: NPPA says cap on knee implant prices to end profiteering

ALSO READ: Ahead of festive season, these banks provide great offers on home, car, gold loans

Also watch:


  • Print

A    A   A