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Cancer patients’ group calls for patent revocation on Remdesivir

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on April 13, 2020

The Gilead drug is under trial to treat Covid-19

The Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) has sounded a note of caution on the patent status of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences Inc that is being tested for its effectiveness in treating patients with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

In public interest, CPAA has urged the government to revoke a patent granted to Gilead on a Remdesivir compound.

“It is imperative at a time like this that no monopoly rights be granted, so that more manufacturers can produce the drug to be made available to all the people who need it, at affordable costs,” CPAA founder YK Sapru said in a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Commerce Minister and the Union Health Secretary, among others.

The CPAA had played a central role in the country’s first pharma patent litigation under the amended Patents Act (2005) involving Novartis’ blood cancer drug Glivec.

‘Lack of novelty’

In its recent letter, the CPAA explained that the patent granted to the Gilead drug in February needed to be revoked due to the lack of novelty and inventiveness — criteria required for patent protection to be granted to a novel compound. Gilead had filed a patent application for “compounds for treating filoviridae infections” in 2017 in India and was granted a patent in February 2020, the CPAA letter said. The coronavirus belongs to the same family as the filoviridae.

“The government has the power to revoke the patent in public interest, give an opportunity to hear the patent holder and make a declaration to that effect in the Official Gazette and thereupon the patent can be deemed to be revoked,” the letter said.

Pointing out that cancer patients are vulnerable to infections, the letter said: “There is a high risk for patients with cancer to deteriorate into a worse state of health or die if they get Covid-19, especially if no treatment is available, accessible and affordable for them.”

Gaps in treatment

Sapru said that some patients could face gaps in their treatment, and CPAA’s work, too, had come to a halt due to Covid. “Without treatment some cancers could obstruct and some could metastasise,” the letter said, adding that about 20 per cent of the patients who had died in Italy of Covid-19 had active cancer.

“Patients who are living with cancer, and are undergoing chemotherapy and/or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer, and patients with blood and bone marrow cancer, are particularly vulnerable to serious illnesses if they get Covid-19,” the letter said.

Published on April 13, 2020

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