India Rejects Cancer Drug Patent

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.”