August 7, 2007 Bloomberg News
India rejects Novartis patent appeal
Novartis AG said its challenge to Indian patent law over that country's rejection of a patent on the best-selling cancer treatment Gleevec was turned down by a court.
The Basel, Switzerland-based company challenged India's legal basis for the rejection of a patent on Gleevec. The Indian government last year denied the application, saying the drug was insufficiently innovative. Novartis said it probably won't appeal yesterday's decision.
Novartis said strong patent laws would strengthen Indian research. The High Court in Chennai deferred to the World Trade Organization to settle whether India was meeting international trade rules. Doctors Without Borders and other groups contend a court victory by the drug maker would have dried up a major source of affordable medicines for people across the globe.
"This is a huge relief for millions of patients and doctors in developing countries who depend on affordable medicines from India," Tido von
Indian Court Rejects Novartis' Challenge to Country's Patent Law
An Indian court on Monday rejected Swiss
pharmaceutical company Novartis' challenge to a section of the
country's Patents Act that aims to restrict certain kinds of
patents, Reuters India reports.
India's patent law, which went into effect in January 2005,
allows patents for
products that are new inventions developed after 1995,
when India joined the World Trade Organization, or for an updated drug that exhibits
improved efficacy. Indian Health Minister
Anbumani Ramadoss in April urged Novartis to withdraw its
challenge over concern that it could disrupt the global supply of
antiretroviral drugs. Novartis also brought a civil lawsuit
against the Indian government after the country in January 2006
rejected the company's attempt to patent a new version of its
leukemia drug Gleevec on the basis that the drug is a new formulation of an
Although some Indian drug companies and groups say that Gleevec is a new formulation of a drug developed before 1995, Novartis says that it is an improved drug. If Novartis wins the case, it potentially could set a precedent for other pharmaceutical companies seeking patent protection for drugs, including antiretrovirals, some HIV/AIDS advocates have said. Novartis in May said it would wait for the court's ruling in the case before deciding how to proceed.
The court in its ruling said that it does not have jurisdiction over whether Indian patent laws complied with the WTO's intellectual property laws. According to Reuters India, Novartis said that it likely will not appeal the decision. A Novartis spokesperson said the company does not agree with the ruling, adding that the company "await[s] the full decision to better understand the court's position." A Novartis statement said the ruling would "have long-term negative consequences for research and development into better medicines for patients in India and abroad." According to some critics of the Novartis case, changes to India's patent laws could have affected the supply of affordable antiretrovirals from India. "We absolutely welcome this court order," Leena Menghaney of Medecins Sans Frontieres in India said. She added, "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" .