The French charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) relies on drugs produced in India and is urging Novartis to 'back off'. 'So much of the developing world depends on generics,' Sheila Shettle from MSF told Chemistry World. 'The Indian government is trying to maintain its populations' access to affordable treatments by preventing companies like Novartis from repeatedly patenting new versions of existing drugs. If companies are able to do this in India, generics would be threatened.'
An application by Novartis for a patent on its leukemia drug Glivec was rejected by India’s patent office in 2006.
Novartis is now fighting that decision, and also challenging India’s patent laws, claiming that they do not comply with the international agreement.
India’s patent act currently requires that drugs be "new and involve an inventive step" in order to win patent protection.
NGOs including Medecins Sans Frontieres and Oxfam say that if Novartis succeeds, pharmaceutical firms will be able to put newer AIDS treatments based on existing drugs under patent protection in India, preventing cheap generic versions from being exported to Africa and elsewhere.
The following comes from MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES.
PEOPLE BEFORE PATENTS: THE LIVES OF MILLIONS ARE AT STAKE!!
Pharmaceutical company Novartis is taking the Indian government to court. If the company wins, millions of people across the globe could have their sources of affordable medicines dry up.
Novartis was one of the 39 companies that took the South African government to court five years ago, in an effort to overturn the country's medicines act that was designed to bring drug prices down. Now Novartis is up to it again and is targeting India.
India produces affordable medicines that are vital to many people living in developing countries. Over half the medicines currently used for AIDS treatment in developing countries come from India and such medicines are used to treat over 80% of the 80,000 AIDS patients in Médecins Sans Frontières projects.
If Novartis is successful in its challenge against the Indian government and its patent law, more medicines are likely to be patented in India, making it very difficult for generic producers to make affordable versions of them. This could affect millions of people around the world who depend on medicines produced in India.