Indian Health Minister Urges Novartis To Withdraw Case Against Country’s Drug Patents Act
Over concern that the global supply of low-cost antiretroviral drugs could be disrupted, Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday urged pharmaceutical company Novartis to withdraw its challenge to a section of India's Patents Act that aims to restrict certain kinds of patents, Reuters reports (Zaheer, Reuters, 4/10). A two-judge panel of a court in Chennai, India, last week reserved its verdict in a case brought by Novartis against a section of India's Patents Act that aims to restrict certain kinds of patents. 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 existing drug. 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. 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. The panel did not set a date when it will announce its verdict in the case (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/6). Ramadoss on Tuesday said that the government could be forced to issue a compulsory license to produce vital drugs if it is decided to be in the public's interest. "India has not used compulsory licensing so far," Ramadoss said, adding, "So we shouldn't be pushed toward that" (Reuters, 4/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.