Updated on 16 April 2013
Monopoly no more – APAC nations hammer their gavel hard to keep big pharma monopoly at bay
Indian apex court has made its intentions clear with the rejection of Novartis' plea to obtain patent protection for cancer drug Glivec in India. The Supreme Court of India will not encourage or entertain monopoly of pharmaceutical giants at the cost of public health.
The court's rejection to grant patent to Glivec will enable patients access to the drug without feeling the pinch of its high price tag. In 2012, the Supreme Court had taken a similar action, when it granted compulsory licensing to Natco Pharma for selling Sorafenib Tosylate, marketed as Nexavar by Bayer, in India. Nexavar is prescribed for the treatment of liver and kidney cancer and Natco had filed an application for issue of compulsory license to manufacture its low-cost version. Ignoring the anguish among the novel drug developers, the court allowed the generic company to sell the branded drug, even when it was in the bracket of patent protection.
India is not the only country that has disarmed pharmaceutical firms from monopolizing a market with a patent protection, which inevitably results in high prices of drugs. Developing countries in South East Asia have taken similar steps for ensuring availability of necessary drugs at an affordable price.
In 2012, Indonesia President Dr H Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree authorizing government use of patents for seven HIV/AIDS and hepatitis medicines, enabling their wider availability at low cost in Indonesia archipelago. The drugs included Efavirenz (Merck), Abacavir (Glaxo), Didanosin (Bristol-Myers Squibb), Combination Lopinavir and Ritonavir (Abbott), Tenofovir (Gilead Sciences), Combination Tenofovir and Emtrisitabin (Gilead Sciences), Combination Tenofovir, Emtrisitabin and Evafirenz (Gilead Sciences).
The action enabled local Indonesian manufacturers to make, import and sell generic versions of the patented drugs used for treating HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B. The exploitation of patent of antiviral and antiretroviral medicines by Indonesian government was intended to meet availability and urgent needs of community for serious diseases. According to the terms, generic pharmaceutical firms are entitled to pay 0.5 percent compensation fee of the net selling to the patent holder.