Updated on 1 April 2013
Keeping its fingers crossed - Novartis awaits Supreme Court of India's verdict on the historic patent case of its chronic myeloid leukemia drug, Glivec (or Gleevec)
New Delhi: India's apex judicial body will today pass its verdict on historic seven-year legal battle involving Novartis' chronic myeloid leukemia drug, Glivec (known in Europe as Gleevec). The Supreme Court of India will rule on a landmark patent case involving the Swiss drugmaker, which has appealed that its investments be protected against Indian companies that are seeking to produce cheaper generic versions of several of its lifesaving medicines. It is estimated that while Glivec, which is also used in treating some other cancers, costs a patient about $2,600 a month, its generic version was available in India for around $175 per month.
The legal case goes back to 2006 when Novartis' application for a fresh patent in India for its cancer drug Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) was rejected by the Indian patent office. The patent authority cited a legal provision in India's 2005 patent law, which aimed at preventing companies from getting fresh patents for making only minor changes to existing medicines (a practice infamously known as evergreening).
The drugmaker argued that the drug was a newer, more easily absorbed version that qualified for a fresh patent. The company filed an appeal, but India's patent appeals office turned it down in 2009 on the grounds the company was unable to show significant increase in efficacy of the drug. Novartis then approached the Supreme Court of India in August 2009, which heard arguments seeking to challenge the interpretation and application of India's patent law in the case.