Tuesday, April 2, 2013

India's Supreme Court Allows Continued Low-Cost Generics.

The New York Times (4/2, A1, Harris, Thomas, Subscription Publication) reports in a front-page story, "Production of the generic drugs in India, the world's biggest provider of cheap medicines, was ensured on Monday in a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court," meaning the populations of developing countries "will continue to have access to low-cost copycat versions of drugs for" HIV and cancer. The court ruled that a previous patent for Novartis' Gleevec prevented the company from taking out a new patent on the drug. According to the Times, "the debate over global drug pricing is one of the most contentious issues between developed countries and the developing world." Because the US allows companies to repatent a drug by altering its formula or changing its dosage, the country "pays the highest drug prices in the world." Now, "the United States government has become increasingly insistent in recent years that other countries adopt far more stringent patent protection rules, with the result that poorer patients often lose access to cheap generic copies of medicines when their governments undertake trade agreements with the United States."

        The Washington Post (4/1, Lakshmi) reports, "Many international drug companies have said that the Novartis trial was crucial to addressing the rapidly growing perception around the world that India's patent protection system for drugs is weak." Recently, "other Western pharmaceutical companies have been facing similar patent-related setbacks in India." While health activists and Indian drug companies argue "most Indians cannot afford expensive patented drugs," the ruling also "is a huge boost for India's $26 billion generic drug industry."

        The New York Times (4/1, Gottipati) reports in its "India Ink" blog, "The case represents a high-stakes showdown between defenders of intellectual property rights, who say generic versions stifle innovation by drug makers, and Indian drug companies and international aid groups, who warned that a ruling in favor of Novartis could have dried up the global supply of inexpensive medicines to treat AIDS, cancer and other diseases."

        The AP (4/2, George) reports, "Novartis called the ruling a 'setback for patients,' and said patent protection is crucial to fostering investment in research to develop new and better drugs. Ranjit Shahani, the vice chairman and managing director of Novartis India, said the ruling 'will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options.'"

        Another AP (4/1) story reports, "Major drugmakers such as Pfizer and Bayer AG on Monday declined to say what they might do regarding the ruling and other recent decisions by poor countries to let local drugmakers sell cheap generic versions for medicines that have monopolies under patents in Western countries. ... One thing is clear, though: Emerging markets are not the gold mine that optimistic pharmaceutical executives have been making them out to be."

        The Los Angeles Times (4/1, Alpert) reports, "Despite its objections to the ruling, Novartis said it was unlikely to challenge the court decision." Meanwhile, Tahir Amin, co-founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge, "said the next battleground for generic drugs will be a Pacific free trade agreement under negotiation among a long list of countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Malaysia."
Also reporting this story are the Wall Street Journal (4/2, Subscription Publication), Bloomberg News (4/1, Von Schaper, Patnaik), Reuters (4/2), another Reuters (4/2), The Hill (4/2, Viebeck) "Healthwatch" blog, Time (4/1), NPR (4/1) "The Two Way" blog, Forbes (4/1), and BBC News (4/2).

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