The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Novartis sales rights spark protests

Mumbai, Nov. 14: The opposition to the government’s decision in granting exclusive marketing rights to Novartis India for its anti-cancer drug Glivec is growing. Two days after the Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma expressed concern about the rights, the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) today said the exclusive marketing rights for this vital drug can provide the leverage to its holders to interfere with the generic production and distribution of this drug.

Natco has launched a similar product under the brand name, Veenat. IDMA said some domestic manufacturers have developed their processes for this drug and they have been marketing it at about one-tenth of its international price, which is about $27,000 for an annual course requirement for a patient. Few suffering patients in India could afford the drug, it added.

The generic price of about $2,700 for the same quantity of the drug, though high, makes it possible for a larger number of patients to undergo treatment.

“This is a vital life-saving drug for treatment of blood cancer. Therefore, greatest care should be taken before giving any such grant,” IDMA said.

Novartis AG had filed applications for patent of the drug in a few countries in May 1993. It is here where the drug industry is questioning the grant of the rights, since according to section 24(b) of the Patent Act, 1970, exclusive marketing rights would be claimable only for inventions filed on or after January 1, 1995.

Even if the exclusive marketing rights are taken to be valid, it would be necessary in public interest to permit sale and distribution of the drug by generic manufacturers who have already obtained the required drug licences or have started producing and marketing the drug, the association said.

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