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India’s rejection of Novartis’s patent is but a small step in the right direction

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 17 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2412
  1. Soumyadeep Bhaumik, medical doctor, independent researcher, and freelance author, Kolkata, India
  1. soumyadeepbhaumik{at}

Commentators have lauded the decision, but the government must go much further to help the millions of ordinary Indian people indebted because of the cost of common drugs, says Soumyadeep Bhaumik

The ripples India created by issuing the first compulsory licence, of the patented drug sorafenib in 2012,1 are threatening to become a tidal wave now that the Supreme Court has rejected Novartis’s patent application for the β-polymorphic form of imatinib mesylate, called Glivec.2 This landmark judgment has been widely praised by health activists and international humanitarian organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, which depend on cheap Indian generics for supply.3

The decision has been widely portrayed as a major blow to big pharma and a boost to Indian generic drug makers. But how many people will benefit from such moves, which mostly affect expensive drugs that are aimed at patients in private healthcare?

A one month dose of Glivec costs about $1900 (103 765 rupees; £1240; €1450), compared with …

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