Novartis not optimistic about Supreme Court verdict

It s a bad time for Big Pharma in India. First the Intellectual Property Appellate Board upheld the first ever compulsory licence handed out to NATCO to sell Bayer s blockbuster cancer drug Nexavar, then another company applied for a second compulsory licence for a leukaemia drug manufactured by Bristol-Myers. If recent events are anything to go by, then Swiss pharma giants Novartis shouldn t expect a favourable verdict in its case to protect the intellectual property rights of its blockbuster drug Glivec.

In what has been termed as a landmark case the Supreme Court is set to announce a verdict in the case filed by Novartis in 2006 against the Indian government for refusing patent on Glivec. The government felt that Glivec didn t deserve a patent since it wasn t a new medicine and simply an amended version of an older compound.

Along with the compulsory licencing verdict this case will decide the fate of various pharmaceutical MNCs in the country. It also throws up the age-old debate about public health and affordability against research and innovation.

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Paul Herrlin, head, corporate research, Novartis, said that the recent events were concerning for research-based companies. Looking at recent cases, the mood in India makes it more likely that we would have a more negative response , he said in a telecon on Wednesday. Anti-leukaemia drug Glivec is one of the blockbuster drugs for the Swiss company, mopping up global sales of nearly $4 billion and its treatment costs around $36,000 per patient per year. Glivec already has certain more affordable generics in the Indian market

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