Companies

Indian Glivec case concerns raised at Novartis' AGM at Basel

P. T. Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on November 20, 2017

BL25_P2_GLIVEC

NGO shareholder tells company to drop the case

Just days away from the final hearing on a case regarding Novartis' cancer drug, Glivec, at the Supreme Court – the issue was raised by a shareholder at Novartis' annual general meeting in Basel, Switzerland.

Drop the legal case in India on Glivec, Mr Patrick Durisch with Berne Declaration, a Swiss public interest non-government organisation, urged the Novartis management.

At stake here is more than granting of a patent on Glivec – there are implications regarding access to medicines for cancer and other patients, Mr Durisch told Business Line, from Basel.

Novartis' legal challenge aims “to weaken a legitimate and invaluable public health clause of the Indian law, section 3(d), which intends to limit the multiplication of patents on trivial changes to existing medicines, a common practice by multinational pharmaceutical companies known as ‘evergreening',” he said at the AGM.

“Thanks to this safeguard, patent applications on minor modifications of existing AIDS medicines, as well as medicines to treat other diseases, have been rejected.., allowing for competition with generic equivalents upon the expiry of the patent term,” he added.

A patent allows a company to market its product for 20 years, exclusively. The Glivec patent case is a watershed event, as the final outcome will further clarify the implementation of the amended Indian Patents Acts – particularly on issues regarding the interpretation and assessment of efficacy of the medicine seeking a product patent.

Occupy Novartis

Mr Durisch's statement was on behalf of an international NGO coalition, and there were protestors outside the AGM venue, he said. On the day before the AGM, protestors participated in the “occupation of Novartis offices” in the US, he added.

The “occupy” method of international protest was against economic inequalities, and one of the more high profile protests was “Occupy Wall Street” in New York City, late last year.

Seeking clarification

Responding to the shareholder query, Novartis' Chairman, Dr Daniel Vasella, disagreed with the observation that the Supreme Court decision would lead to India no longer being able to produce generic drugs. About 95 per cent of essential medication is free from patents and the changes are only with respect to new drugs, he said.

The “deep rooted dilemma”, he added, was that intellectual property was important for innovation.

The objective of the case is not to prevent access to medicine but to find out what the law says, he said. Echoing similar thoughts, Novartis Chief Executive, Mr Joseph Jimenez, said that the ongoing case was to get clarification on the Indian patent law. Dr Vasella further offered an opportunity to dialogue with the NGOs.

>jyothi@thehindu.co.in

Published on February 24, 2012

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