The pharmacy of the world - the sobriquet India has earned for its ability to supply cheap drugs to poor countries globally - is in for a churn. The landmark decision of the patent office to break the monopoly of Bayer in kidney and liver cancer drugs recently is already having a rippling effect.
Close on the move to invoke 'compulsory licensing' in Bayer's case, Roche has announced plans to sell cheaper variants of its breast and blood cancer drugs in Indian markets soon.
The patent office had felt that Bayer had failed to price the anit-cancer drug Nexavar at a level that could be accessed and was affordable. Besides, the firm was unable to ensure that the drug was available in sufficient quantities in the country.
SPECIAL:India's confused search for cheap drugs
Now, on the block is future of another cancer drug Glivec, of Swiss drug major Novartis, which is locked in a long-drawn patent battle with India. This week, the Supreme Court is likely to begin final hearing in the case that observes feel will impact not only multinationals like Novartis but also the future of India as destination for cheap drugs.
Novartis first challenged the government in 2006 after its patent application for Glivec (imatinib mesylate) was rejected. The 2005 Indian patent law amendment allows product patents but not for drugs which are mere modifications of already existing drugs.
COSTLY CANCER DRUGS
NOVARTIS TRYST WITH PATENTS ACT
Novartis’ patent application for Glivec is rejected in India on several grounds, including Section 3(d) May 2006: Novartis challenges the rejection in the Madras High Court saying it is contrary to TRIPS and the Constitution
HC rejects Novartis plea, says 'efficacy’ under Section 3(d) will require Novartis to prove increase in therapeutic efficacy June 2009: The Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejects Novartis’ appeal and confirms Glivec does not deserve a patent
Novartis approaches SC seeking to challenge interpretation and application of Section 3(d) by Indian courts and patent offices