Delhi court awaits Patent Controller hearing today

The legal battle over Pfizer’s Sutent, a liver and cancer drug, is set to run into next year.

The Delhi High Court has, on Monday, adjourned a case filed by Pfizer seeking to stay Cipla from selling its generic version of Sutent (sunitinib). The Court has adjourned the hearing to the first week of January, awaiting a decision from the Patent Controller, said Cipla counsel Prathiba Singh.

The Patent Controller is scheduled to hear afresh Cipla’s post-grant opposition on Sutent, tomorrow, as directed by the Supreme Court in an earlier case.

In fact, early last week, Pfizer had got a stay against Natco, on the same drug.

Sutent’s legal journey

In October, the Patent Controller had revoked the patent on Sutent, following a post-grant opposition by Cipla.

Following the patent rejection, Pfizer approached the Supreme Court, who in turn reinstated the patent and returned the case to the Patent Controller for a fresh hearing on Cipla’s post-grant opposition, Pfizer had told the correspondent.

It was after the Apex Court sent the issue back to the Patent Controller that Pfizer approached the Delhi HC seeking a stay on Cipla to prevent it from selling the drug, “on the grounds that Pfizer’s patent was now reinstated”, Pfizer had said.

Sutent’s legal journey comes against the back-drop of a string of patent-related cases being fought in different courts within the amended Indian Patent Law.

The law, amended in 2005, protects product patents — that allow innovators a 20-year marketing monopoly.

The apprehension in public health circles is that a patent-holder could keep the price high on an innovation, a medicine in this case.

Generic drug-makers spend less money on research (compared to an innovator), and so are able to price their generic versions of the original medicine lower.

The price of Sutent is reportedly about Rs 2 lakh for a 45-day course.

But Pfizer has stated, in the past, that it has a patient assistance programme to provide eligible patients a partial or completely subsidised treatment-option determined by medical and socio-economic criteria.

(This article was published on December 17, 2012)
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