New Delhi, Sept. 12: Swiss pharma company Novartis today told the Supreme Court that if it gets an Indian patent on its anti-cancer drug Glivec, it would continue giving free drugs to 85 per cent patients till 2018 provided prices were left untouched.
But the court described its scheme of classifying people on the basis of their incomes as “too complicated” and again urged the company to reduce prices.
Whatever the scheme, the end result of all business transactions is financial results, the bench said. The court had asked the company yesterday too to cut prices.
In an affidavit today, Novartis said should it get a patent and prices are not touched, it would continue its patient assistance scheme in the country till 2018, covering the period the patent is valid.
The company said it was providing the drug free or at subsidised prices to patients who meet specific medical and socio-economic guidelines.
Novartis claimed that no patient in India has to pay for more than 80 days of the annual cost of Glivec. It claimed only 5 per cent have to pay a part of the annual cost ranging between 10 and 40 days of treatment (costing Rs 33,000-1,35,000). Not more than 1.5 per cent of total patients pay for 80 days of treatment (Rs 270,000).
Novartis is seeking court intervention to overcome Section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act, 1970, which disallows any patents on minor tinkering of existing patents. The company claims that Glivec is a breakthrough drug.
A two-judge bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai is hearing the company’s appeal against the Madras High Court order upholding the Indian Patents Appellate Board order disallowing Novartis’s claim for a patent. Novartis has also contested a board finding that the price was “too unaffordable”.
NGOs, health activists and generic drug makers are opposing the company’s claim to any patent that would prevent cheaper generic versions from being produced for the poor.
Cheap versions of the drug produced in India are used in over 68 countries, NGO Medicines Sans Frontiers claims.