Tutu on Novartis challenge

7 March 2007 at 12:51 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is among the hundreds of thousands who have voiced their concerns at the Swiss pharmaceuticals group Novartis’ legal challenge against India’s Patents Act.

Novartis is appealing against a decision by India to reject its application for a patent for its best selling cancer drug, Gilvec. India rejected the application on the grounds that the drug was a new form of an old drug.

India, known as the pharmacy of the developing world, grants limited patents on medicines. The Indian patent law keeps the number of patents granted kept to a strict minimum, granting patents only to the truly new and innovative medicines. It does not grant patents to new versions or variations of existing medicine.

Such regulations have prevented companies from extending their monopolies by patenting new variations of existing formulas. It has also kept the costs of medicine down.

There are concerns that Novartis’ move would create a “medical apartheid” that would discriminate against a majority of the population.

Gilvec is patented in 36 countries  and costs each patient US$2600 per month. In India, generic versions of the drug only cost about US$200 per patient per month, according to Medecins San Frontieres.

The verdict of the appeal will be heard at the end of March.

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