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Novartis says it will stick with drug development in India

Novartis says it will stick with drug development in India
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Swiss drugs maker Novartis says its Indian subsidiary will continue to file patents for new drugs in India despite the rejection of its plea for patent protection for its anti-cancer treatment Gilvec.

Novartis’ seven-year legal battle failed after India’s Supreme Court ruled it was it was an amended version of an existing compound.

“We will continue with our investments in India even though
cautiously, new products which we launched, we will ask for patents
for these products and we hope that the ecosystem for intellectual
property in the country improves. Clearly we are disappointed with 
the decision,” said Novartis India Managing Director Ranjit Shahani.

Many drugs firms seek to extend their patents by making minor compound changes, a process known as “evergreening”. It prevents cheaper generic versions from being sold.

“It’s hugely significant because eight million people with HIV are on treatment from India, more than 80 percent of these people get these drugs from India. In the area of HIV, this decision is path-breaking. Number two is this – by protecting generic competition and abusive practices of pharma companies like Novartis, I think the Supreme Court has safeguarded the rights of patients across the developing world,” said Neena Manghaney of Doctors without Borders.

This patients-before-patents approach is getting support from health services facing cuts and rising drugs bills and consumers alike, but hitting the drugs developers’ profits, and analysts warn it may dissuade innovation in the long term.