Order deferred in Glivec case

Order deferred in Glivec case

The Madras high court has deferred its order on the Swiss drug-maker Novartis AG’s petition against the appointment of former patent controller S. Chandrasekharan as a technical member of a panel that will hear the drug giant’s patent dispute.

The intellectual property appellate board or IPAB will hear Novartis’ appeal against the government refusal grants a patent to its cancer drug Glivec in India.

Though the Madras court was expected to deliver a final order on the petition after the Union government agreed to revise the IPAB panel, it got postponed after Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma Ltd, the main corporate opponent to Novartis in the case, argued that the board shouldn’t hear the case without a technical member present.

“Our argument is that since the points to be raised in the IPAB hearing are highly technical in nature, it will be almost impossible for the board to take a balanced view unless it heard by an expert in this subject," said Natco company secretary Adi Narayana.

The high court is now expected to take up the case on 6 November.

Chandrasekharan was the technical member appointed to the board by the government to hear Novartis’ appeal against a 2006 decision of the Chennai patent office to reject the company’s patent application for Glivec.

In the last hearing of the case on 9 October, the government had told the court that it was ready to revise the composition of the board, proposing just a chairman and a vice-chairman, instead of a three-member panel.

Novartis, too, had agreed to this proposal. Novartis had objected to Chandresekharan because he had supervised India’s patent administration when the company’s patent application was rejected.

Novartis’ patent application for a crystal form of the cancer drug was rejected because Indian patent law doesn’t allow patent exclusivity for derivatives or marginally innovated form of known drugs unless it is proven that the drug in question enhances the treatment value substantially. Novartis’ challenge to this law was rejected in August by the Madras high court.

Glivec was launched in India a few years ago. The drug was sold in the country at an estimated cost of Rs1.2 lakh for a treatment cycle of six weeks while generic versions made by local firms were priced at one-tenth of that. When Novartis applied for patent in India, it was opposed by non-government organizations such as Lawyers Collective and local drug-making companies including Cipla Ltd, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd and Natco Pharma.

Meanwhile, Novartis India Ltd, a 51% subsidiary of Novartis AG, said on Tuesday it had posted a 70% rise in its net profit at Rs30.39 crore for the quarter ended 30 September as compared to Rs17.87 crore for the corresponding period last year. Total income of the company grew 18.6% to Rs163.97 crore for the quarter ended 30 September against Rs138.25 crore for the same period last year, the company said in a Bombay Stock Exchange filing.

PTI contributed to this story.