New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing a final appeal by Swiss drug maker Novartis AG seeking an extension of a patent on Glivec, a cancer drug.
Novartis contends that its patent on the drug should be extended as it has increased its efficacy by 30%, meaning that a person’s capacity to absorb the newer version of the drug is that much better. Glivec is a modified version of an earlier drug molecule, Imatinib Myselate, patented by Novartis in 1998. Patents run for 20 years under Indian law.
But Indian patent law seeks to protect indigenous drug manufacturers and patients from a practice called ‘ever-greening’ of patents. This involves companies trying to retain their grip over a patent by introducing small improvements in drugs under the guise of innovation.
The question before the court is crucial as it involves a challenge to this legal protection and a deeper interpretation of innovation under patent law.
Also at stake is India’s willingness to comply with international committments on intellectual property protection to pharmaceutical companies which spend large sums of money on research and develpment.
Novartis is appealing a decision of the intellectual property appellate board.