India Rejects Cancer Drug Patent

    Kiran Hukku, a member of Cancer Patients Aid association, sits behind packages of Indian-made cancer drugs costing US$175 per month as compared to Novartis' US$2600, during a press conference in New Delhi, India, Monday, April 1, 2013. India's Supreme Court on Monday rejected drug maker Novartis AG's attempt to patent a new version of a cancer drug Glivec, in a landmark decision that healthcare activists say ensures poor patients around the world will get continued access to cheap versions of lifesaving medicines. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

    Manish Swarup/AP,Manish Swarup

    India’s Supreme Court decided Monday that it will not allow drug manufacturer Novartis AG to patent an updated version of the cancer drug Glivec, ensuring that a generic version of the medicine will continue to be available and affordable for poor patients around the world. Health activists opposed Novartis’s attempt to acquire a patent on the update—arguing that the medicine was not new, and allowing drug companies to extend patents on drugs every time a minor change is made would halt generic manufacturers from producing those drugs at a much lower cost. While the decision is a win for India’s $26 billion generic-drug industry—responsible for providing much of the cheap medicine used in the developing world—Novartis called it “a setback for patients,” arguing that “patents safeguard innovation and encourage medical progress.”

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