Swiss drugmaker Novartis has locked horns with Biocon over the alleged infringement of the patent on its diabetes drug Galvus, which reportedly had global sales of over $1.2 billion last year.

The legal action seeks to prevent Biocon from launching a similar version of the drug. It comes a year after a high-profile patent case involving Novartis’ blood cancer drug Glivec ended.

In the latest case, Novartis said it had approached the Delhi High Court late last month seeking an injunction against Biocon for patent infringement.

The company said Biocon was committing an infringement on its Indian basic compound patent for the novel molecule Vildagliptin.

The product was launched in India in 2008 and the patent on this compound expires in 2019.

Biocon has clarified that it respected “all valid IP (intellectual property)” and intended to operate within the applicable IP laws in India and elsewhere.

It further added that it had not been issued any injunction on Vildagliptin nor had it launched the product in India.

‘No impact on plans’

“There is no impact on our immediate plans for this product,” Biocon said, without giving details on whether a launch was imminent.

A patent allows a company or individual to enjoy exclusive commercial rights on the patented product for 20 years. But the pitch gets queered when the patent covers expensive life-saving drugs, as healthcare workers fear that patents will give rise to monopolies and could result in drugs being priced beyond the reach of ordinary consumers.

Drug companies, both domestic and multinational, have been at loggerheads over protection of intellectual property rights ever since India amended its Patents Act in 2005.

Second fight over Galvus

Early last month, Novartis had obtained an injunction from the Delhi High Court against another local drug-maker, Wockhardt, over the alleged infringement of its compound.

Wockhardt had challenged Novartis’ patent on the drug.

Biocon has been locked in a high-profile battle with another multinational, Roche, over it breast cancer drug trastuzumab, sold under the brand name Herceptin. Roche obtained an injunction from the Delhi High Court preventing Biocon and Mylan from comparing their products to Roche’s biological drug.

The injunction came just as the two companies were poised to launch their generically-similar versions in India, at a price 25 per cent lower than the innovator’s drug.

Biocon shares closed at ₹434.1, down 1.35 per cent on the NSE.