Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Nov 13, 2003
Industry & Economy - IPR
Natco to challenge grant of exclusive rights to Novartis cancer drug
Hyderabad , Nov. 12
NATCO Pharma Ltd has decided to challenge the decision of the Controller-General of Patents and Trademarks of India granting exclusive marketing rights to Novartis India for its anti-cancer drug in the country.
Novartis India is the first company to get exclusive rights for a drug in the country under the product patent regime. The Indian subsidiary of the multinational company was reportedly given exclusive rights to market its drug - Glivec - for five years or until a product patent supersedes the rights in the country.
In a press release here on Wednesday, the Natco Pharma Vice-President, Business Development, Mr Rajeev Nannapaneni, announced the company's decision to challenge the grant of rights to Novartis.
Natco had launched early this year Imatinib Mesylate, a drug for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia. The company was also granted National Award for R&D efforts on this drug by the Department of Science and Industrial Research recently.
Natco made the medicine, under the brand `Veenat', available at one-tenth of the cost of Novartis' Glivec.
According to Mr Nannapaneni, the company's therapy costs $2,700 per annum, against Novartis' $27,000. The company had also undertaken a drug donation programme under which it was helping over 250 patients suffering from chronic myeloid leukaemia with free supply of Veenat.
According to Mr Nannapaneni, under the provisions of the Indian Patent Act and Rules, exclusive rights can be granted only in respect of patents and applications filed in a convention country after January 1, 1995. "According to the information available, the applications for patents with respect to Imatinib Mesylate were filed (by Novartis) prior to 1995. In this backdrop Natco feels that grant of rights is not correct, and therefore, feels that it has a strong case for revocation of the exclusive rights," he said.
He saidthe concerned authorities should look beyond commercial and legal considerations.
"Granting of exclusive rights to a costly therapy, which prohibits the availability of an equally good medicine at a fraction of the cost, is against humanitarian principles. In effect, implementation of the exclusive rights would make the drug out of reach for thousands of patients who are already on Veenat and consequently, this would mean a death sentence to ill-affordable patients."
Further, Mr Rajeev Nannapaneni said: "The policy needs to be reviewed at least in respect of non-lifestyle, critical and life-saving medicines."
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