Novartis's famed cancer drug, Glivec, will not get patent protection in India.
The apex body on patent and trademark disputes, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, has recently ruled that the drug ‘lacks innovation’ and the high price tag of Rs 120,000 per month per patient would be too high for the common man.
"Any patent granted to support such a high monopoly price would be against 'public order'," the ruling said.
This brings the curtains down on a high profile three-year legal battle over patent rights between the Swiss multinational drug major and the Indian government.
What effect will it have on the Indian pharma industry? What influence will it have on research and innovation?
To seek answers to such questions, rediff.com’s Indrani Roy spoke to Kolkata-based renowned oncologist and writer Dr Sthabir Dasgupta.
How will the Supreme Court ruling in the Novartis case affect Indian pharma industry?
I don't think this ruling will affect the Indian pharma industry in a major way, although the foreign pharma biggies will find it difficult to digest.
On the other hand, the indigenous industry will find themselves in an advantageous position in terms of business.
Foreign pharma biggies cry foul that while they are spending billions on drug discovery, countries like India manufacture generic drugs which hurts their profit. Your comment.
The truth on the contrary is that the foreign pharma biggies spend billions on drug promoting and marketing, rather than on drug discovery.
The real cost on drug discovery is never known because they have always suppressed the real cost on research and development and they have always refused to open their books of accounts to the public.
I think it is outrageous on their part to raise questions against the manufacture generic drugs in India.
Will this verdict encourage genuine research/innovation?
I am not very optimistic about genuine research or innovation in India.
Are patent laws in India strict enough?
Still, there are inconsistencies and inadequacies in such laws.
Else, how could Novartis find guts to file such a case and to contest it for years?
Is there a way to make cancer drugs more affordable in India?
Of course, there are ways to make cancer drugs more affordable.
However, they will require political wisdom.
As long as our political system dances to the tune of the multi-national corporations, affordability will remain a far cry.
It is evident in the medical journals and literature that much cheaper and equally, if not more effective, drugs are available.
They cannot be bought in the market but behind the dark glasses in the laboratories.
Besides the high cost of medicine, fake drugs is another contentious issue in India. What steps should the government take to ensure that pharmacists sell genuine drugs?
The issue of fake drugs is contentious, but not a difficult one.
If the government machineries function properly, such issues can be resolved in time.
Image: Dr Sthabir Dasgupta | Photograph: Dipak Chakraborty