India Squashes Novartis Cancer Drug Patent
High court move likely to keep drugs cheap in developing world
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2013 7:41 AM CDT
Anand Grover, a lawyer for the Cancer Patients Aid Association, who led the legal fight against Novartis, addresses a press conference in New Delhi, India, Monday, April 1, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

(Newser) – A major Supreme Court decision in India could be good news for patients in developing countries, activists say. The court ruled that Novartis couldn't have a new patent for a tuneup to an existing cancer drug, since it's not a new medicine, the AP reports. "Patents will be given only for genuine inventions, and repetitive patents will not be given for minor tweaks to an existing drug," a lawyer for a generic drugmaker said. India produces generic drugs for countries across the developing world.

The fight over the drug, known as Glivec or Gleevec, began in 2006 after India's patent office denied Novartis' application; the office referred to "evergreening," when companies seek new patents after slightly altering medicines. "The generic version makes it affordable to so many more poor people, not just in India, but across the world," said an activist. "For cancer sufferers, this ruling will mean the difference between life and death." Novartis, however, said the decision was a "setback for patients." Said an exec: "We strongly believe patents safeguard innovation and encourage medical progress."

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Apr 1, 2013 4:36 PM CDT
Indian Supreme Court: "f*ck you big pharma, please come again"
Over the Road Steve
Apr 1, 2013 8:44 AM CDT
What this decisions does is force Indians, and poor people, to depend on a less effective drug because it is cheaper. Perhaps a good tradeoff, but it is a tradeoff none the less. Indians are accepting a lower level of care to get care they can afford. The reason given for the denial seems bogus to me. The generic drug could still be manufactured and used even with the new drug on the scene. Somewhere, the fix is in. Some entrenched interest, in India, makes money by denying this patent.
Apr 1, 2013 8:40 AM CDT
"We strongly believe patents safeguard innovation and encourage medical progress." He forgot to add "and protects our obscene profits."