The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG's attempt to win patent protection for its cancer drug Glivec, a blow to Western
pharmaceutical firms targeting India to drive sales and a victory for local makers of cheap generics. The decision sets a benchmark for intellectual property cases in India, where many patented drugs are unaffordable for many. Here is how some leading newspapers and websites reacted to the news.
File photo of an Indian activist from a health group holds a placard while participating in a protest against Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG outside their office in Mumbai (AP Photo)
Drug patents: A fool's game, Schumpeter blog, ECONOMIST.COM
"The (Novartis) case was watched closely by virtually everyone with an interest in selling medicines or benefiting from them, including drug firms, trade officials and patient advocates. Innovative drug companies have faced two key questions in India. First, will India's young patent regime, in place since 2005, provide the same protection as those in America and Europe? Second, will Indian regulators tolerate high drug prices? The answer to both questions seems to be "no"."
India Court Ruling Against Novartis Is Dark Omen For Big Pharma, opinion piece by Nigam Arora, FORBES
"It is official: India is siding with poor cancer patients over profits for multinational drug giants. The (Supreme Court) decision is being hailed by activists and has major implications for multinational pharmaceutical firms. The decision opens the door for Indian companies to continue to make generics of a large number of drugs that are under patent in the developed world. The decision is also a big setback for the ever-greening strategy employed by big pharma."
Novartis patent ruling a victory in battle for affordable medicines, opinion piece by Sarah Boseley, THE GUARDIAN
"Had Novartis won, it would have set a precedent for patenting of other medicines in India, delaying their reaching the poor. The multinational drug companies, however, have been working hard to prevent further erosion of their profits by generic, copycat manufacturers whom they once openly called pirates."
Drug ruling keeps focus on pricing, analysis in THE FINANCIAL TIMES
"The Glivec judgment highlights the continued pressure for a new deal in drug pricing that allows for far more affordable access to expensive medicines. Given India's poorly funded health system, cheaper drugs alone will not provide a solution. But their role is pivotal and patent protection will not be ignored either by activists or generic rivals."
India Overdoses on Regulation, opinion piece by Abheek Bhattacharya, ONLINE.WSJ.COM
"India's decision not to grant a patent for the cancer drug Glivec is, "a setback for patients that will hinder medical progress," according to the drug's maker, Novartis. Hyperbole? Certainly. But there are good reasons to believe India's pharmaceutical sector faces serious headwinds."
No victory for the poor, editorial in Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Swiss German-language newspaper)
"No one expected the judges in this politicised case to deliver a judgment that would give the impression that the interests of a multinational would be put before the needs of its own poor population."
"What is amazing is how much time the process has taken up; a process length of seven years has done nothing to encourage confidence in the soundness of India's legal system."
Editorial in Basler Zeitung, Novartis' home town newspaper in Swiss German-language
"The consequences of this decision for Novartis are negligible in comparison to their international business. For the Indian pharmaceutical industry it is positive in the short-term but longer term this defensive policy will cost them because following this decision, Western pharma groups will no longer invest in India. This will leave India short on know-how and vulnerable in the case of an epidemic."
Novartis, Facebook, Vivendi, Aereo: Intellectual Property, news report by Victoria Slind-Flor in BLOOMBERG.COM
"The (Supreme Court) decision may add to concern among Western pharmaceutical companies that India allows domestic generic-drug makers to profit from products that deserve patent protection. Scientists credit Gleevec with turning a deadly blood cancer into a chronic disease, and the drug was Novartis's best-selling product last year with sales of $4.7 billion...
Besides denying a patent to Gleevec, India has angered pharmaceutical companies by allowing generic-drug makers to produce copies of patent-protected medicines to ensure they're available in the country at affordable prices. Drug companies say they have programs in place to make expensive medicines available to the poor."
(With inputs from Reuters.)