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Indian Court Refers Novartis Plea for Patent on Anti-cancer Drug to a Separate Board

of the amendment to the patents law have been reserved. They could be delivered in a month or so from now.

And if a company like the Novartis gets its step in the door, asserting its right to patent even minor modifications of existing formulations, drug prices could go through the roof.

No firm then can manufacture generic drugs, which are less expensive. As patents near expiration, manufacturers apply for permission to sell generic versions. Because those manufacturers don’t have the same development costs, they can sell their product at substantial discounts. Also, once generic drugs are approved, there is greater competition, which keeps the price down. Today, almost half of all prescriptions are filled with generic drugs. Generic variations are introduced in colors, flavors, and certain other inactive ingredients.

To cite a specific example of the benefits of generic versions, the cost of patented HIV/AIDS drugs is huge whereas the generic is very cheap and affordable. Hence activists the world have raised serious concerns over the Novartis case in the Madras High Court.

The company has patented Glivec in nearly 40 countries worldwide and says it wants to ensure that it will get adequate patent protection for any drugs it plans to offer in India in the future. 'For a research-based organisation like Novartis, patents are non-negotiable, said a spokesperson for Novartis. 'This is the core of our business model and we cannot work in markets where there aren’t effective patent systems. It’s not about stopping generics. We are a major generics manufacturer.'

The stakes are high, say activists. 'Should Novartis succeed in its challenge, it will mark the first time that the demands of a private multinational corporation have overridden a sovereign country’s right to protect the health of its people,' said Chan Park of the Lawyers’ Collective HIV/AIDS Unit in New Delhi, which has campaigned against the case. <
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