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Saturday, Aug 07, 2004

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SC notices on cancer drug marketing rights

C.R. Sukumar

Hyderabad , Aug. 6

THE debate over the issue of exclusive marketing rights (EMRs) to overseas pharmaceutical company took a fresh turn on Friday with the Supreme Court issuing notices to the Central Government, Drug Controller General of India and the Controller General of Patents and National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority following a petition filed by the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA).

CPAA had moved the court alleging that the price of a widely-used cancer fighting drug would go out of the patients' reach with the granting of EMR in favour of the Swiss drug major Novartis.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari issued notice to Novartis, while posting the case for hearing after four weeks. The court also directed the petitioners to file an affidavit on the status of the cases filed against EMR to Novartis in other courts as well.

According to the industry sources, "This could lead to the transfer of all the petitions filed against granting of EMR to a single designated court. At present, several petitions are under various stages of hearing at courts across the country."

The petitioner challenged the grant of EMR to Novartis for the drug Gleevec. The drug contains a crystalline form of the compound imatinib meyslate used for treating chronic myeloid leukaemia. The EMR blocks duplication and sale of the drug by any company other than Novartis for five years.

The petitioners submitted to the Supreme Court that following the grant of EMR to Novartis, the price of the drug would go up to Rs 1.2 lakh from Rs 4,000 at which the drug was made available to CPAA by Indian pharmaceutical companies.

Welcoming the Supreme Court orders, a senior official of a city-based pharmaceutical company told Business Line that though the judgement on the petition was pending, moving all the cases to one designated court would expedite the issue and find an early solution to the problem.

"We view that granting of EMR violates the provisions of right to health by way of denying access to medicines."

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