Novartis judgement is worth pondering over!

The Supreme Court’s rejection of Novartis’ patent application for its anti-blood cancer drug Glivec has opened up a new debate in India.

While companies manufacturing generic drugs in India consider it as their victory and are gung ho about the judgment, big pharma names like Novartis are sulking and complaining about it as unjustified.

Novartis judgement is worth pondering over!

The Supreme Court’s logic was that incremental innovations are only part of the process called “ever greening” and one of the many strategies used by these big pharma companies is to keep their drugs out of the reach of the general masses. Section (3d) requires both newness in innovation and significant increase in drug effectiveness and in the case of Glivec the court found out that it is nothing more than the restructuring of salts in the molecule.

According to the court, drugs like Glivec which are patented in the name of the company are source of huge revenues for the company and it would be unproductive for them to pass over the advantage to the common masses and generic drug makers without realizing the full costs involved in R&D operations.

The point is justified considering the amount of investment required for innovation but the greed scores over in most cases and companies tend to make the pills unavailable even after the protective period under the patent license is over. In India the patent period is fixed at 20 years.

Recently, companies have come out with a new logic in order to increase their time of patent license (to earn more money of course). They file for extension of their patents in the name of incremental innovations.

India is one of the largest exporters of generic drugs. Therefore, the expiration of patent license on time awards huge earning possibilities to such companies producing generic drugs.

Glivec, for instance, costs around Rs 1, 00,000 but the company in accordance with its social duty is already offering the drug to the poor people of India for free while generic companies will offer them for at least Rs10,000 which is still an enhanced amount for the underprivileged population of the country.

Inspite of India being a big player in manufacturing low cost medicines why can’t generic medicine manufacturing companies provide such medicines to the majority of our population who lack healthcare for free?

They don’t even spend on innovation and hence put all the money in their pockets as mere profit.

In addition, we are too dependent on breaking of patents to develop medicines rather than spending on R&D and producing new ground breaking drugs ourselves.

Why can’t we do away with the copy and paste culture and innovate something new ourselves?

What Dr. Reddy’s Lab promised a few years ago is the need of the hour and then only will our deprived population be ensured of healthcare at low prices rather than depending on breaking of patents and producing cheap drugs for mere profits that surely lacks social responsibility.

Ashish Pandey

I am a business and finance journalist who is currently employed at Financial Express and previously at Zee News. My areas of interest include business and foreign policy. You can reach me on Twitter at @ashuvirgo1984 or @eFundsPlus.

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