LONDON: Novartis AG rejected suggestions on 20 February that its stance over patents on cancer drug Glivec in India was similar to a past ill-fated bid by the drug industry to sue South Africa over access to AIDS drugs.
“That was a mistake, we all agree ... but the parallel is wrong,” Paul Herrling, head of corporate research at the Swiss drugmaker, told Reuters on the sidelines of a pharmaceuticals conference.
“Then the pharma companies were limiting the access by saying you can only have my drug if you pay. Here we are saying we would like a good patent protection in India for the paying market, for those people who can afford it.But meanwhile we are going to make Glivec available to any Indian person who is diagnosed and cannot pay, so that’s a pretty different stance.”
Herrling said intellectual property laws were key to spurring investment in new medicines and it was important for India, as an emerging economic giant, to embrace the concept.
Campaign groups have attacked the pharmaceutical group for its legal moves on Glivec, arguing that the poor could lose access to vital medications if the challenge succeeds because many developing countries rely on generic versions of patented drugs made in India.India is a major source of cheap generic medicines.
Novartis is challenging an Indian law that blocks the patenting of minor improvements in known molecules. It is also challenging a January decision to reject its patent application in India for cancer drug Glivec, which was turned down because it was for a new form of a known substance.The hearing is being held in Chennai. It is unclear when a verdict might be delivered.