Novartis challenges India’s drug patent laws in Supreme Court

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 21 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1279
  1. Matthew Billingsley
  1. 1BMJ

The interpretation of India’s drug patent laws is being challenged in the country’s Supreme Court by the drug company Novartis. Campaigners say that if the challenge is successful it will restrict access of developing countries to generic drugs.

Novartis is seeking a new patent for the anticancer drug imatinib mesilate (which it markets as Glivec) in a case that will begin in the court on 28 February.

But the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) argues that the case should be rejected because it concerns a tweak to an existing formulation of the drug—a technique known as “evergreening”—and does not represent an improvement in clinical effectiveness, as required under section 3(d) of India’s patent laws.

MSF fears that if Novartis is successful the Indian Patents Office will be under pressure to award more patents for drugs with minor modifications, which could see …

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