Indian Court Ruling in Novartis Case Protects India as the 'Pharmacy of the Developing World'

Refer to my previous scrap: Join MSF in Telling Novartis to Put People Before Patents

August 6, 2007
Indian Court Ruling in Novartis Case Protects India as the 'Pharmacy of the Developing World'

New Delhi/Geneva, August 6, 2007 – The landmark decision by the High Court in Chennai to uphold India's Patents Act in the face of the challenge by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is a major victory for patients' access to affordable medicines in developing countries, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated today.

"This is a huge relief for millions of patients and doctors in developing countries who depend on affordable medicines from India," said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of the MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. "The Court's decision now makes Indian patents on the medicines that we desperately need less likely. We call upon multinational drug companies and wealthy countries to leave the Indian Patents Act alone and stop pushing for ever stricter patent regimes in developing countries."


Novartis took the Indian government to court over its 2005 Patents Act because it wanted a more extensive granting of patent protection for its products than offered by the law. Novartis claimed that India's Patents Act did not meet rules set down by the World Trade Organization and was in violation of the Indian constitution. Apparently all of Novartis's claims have been rejected by the High Court today.


India only began giving patents on medicines to comply with WTO rules, but it designed its law with safeguards so that patents can only be granted for real innovations. This means that companies seeking a patent for modifications to a molecule already invented, in order to extend ever further their monopolies on existing drugs, would be unsuccessful in India. It is this aspect of the law that Novartis was seeking to have removed. A ruling in favor of the company would have drastically restricted the production of affordable medicines in India that are crucial for the treatment of diseases throughout the developing world.


Developing country governments and international agencies like UNICEF and the Clinton Foundation rely heavily on importing affordable drugs from India, and 84% of the antiretrovirals that MSF prescribes to its patients worldwide come from Indian generic companies. India must be allowed to remain the 'pharmacy of the developing world.'


Nearly half a million people worldwide voiced their concern about the impact Novartis's case could have on access to medicines in the developing world. Among them were the Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Global Fund Director Michel Kazatchkine, members from the European Parliament and the US Congress, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, former UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Norwegian Development Minister Erik Solheim, as well as authors John Le Carré and Naomi Klein. An MSF petition urging Novartis to drop the case gathered over 420,000 signatures.


I am happy to hear that we could make it and I could add my hand to this. Wow, over 420,000 signatures!!!


Likely most of you have already heard about yesterday's historic 
ruling in Chennai, but if not a quick summary below.

Cheers

Paula Chakravartty

Associate Professor

Department of Communication

UMass Amherst





http://www.csrwire.com/News/9376.html:



Indian Ruling Against Novartis a Victory for Public Health



(CSRwire) August 6, 2007- Today's verdict by an Indian court against 
the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is an important victory for 
global public health, according to international aid agency Oxfam and 
the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, an institutional 
investor organization.

In a direct attack against India's right to protect public health, 
Novartis had challenged an Indian-law that allows the country to 
refuse a patent for an existing medicine when it is not truly 
innovative.
But today's decision will protect India's special role as 
the world's leading provider of affordable medicines to people who 
depend on inexpensive medicines as their only means of treatment.

"This ruling is a vindication for India and a victory for public 
health,"
said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair 
campaign. "Developing countries should not be bullied by 
pharmaceutical companies and forced to defend themselves in court for 
correctly using the safeguards legally available to them to protect 
public health. Novartis should respect this ruling."

With this ruling, Novartis and the pharmaceutical industry have been 
given a clear message to respect developing countries' legal right to 
use the World Trade Organization TRIPS (trade-related intellectual 
property) safeguards in order to strike a fair balance between 
protecting public health and intellectual property, noted Oxfam and 
ICCR.

India - known as the 'pharmacy of the developing world' due to its 
massive generic drug production industry - supplies most of the 
world's affordable generics to developing countries where patented 
medicines are priced out of most people's reach. More than two-thirds 
of the generic medicines produced in India are exported to developing 
countries at a fraction of the cost of patented brand medicines. 
Multilateral and bilateral aid programs, such as the US AIDS 
treatment program (PEPFAR), UNICEF and Doctors without Borders, rely 
heavily on Indian generics.

"One can only hope that this ruling will send a message to Novartis 
and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry that safeguarding public 
health and guaranteeing access to medicines for the marginalized and 
poor needs to be included in any patent protection framework that 
hopes to be universally credible and acceptable" said Rev Séamus Finn 
OMI, representing the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Novartis 
shareholders and members of the ICCR AIDS working group.

Novartis' legal challenge posed an enormous threat in developing 
countries to millions of people suffering from cancer, HIV and AIDS, 
diabetes and other diseases who are too poor to pay for expensive 
patented medicines. Novartis' attempt to intimidate India into 
exceeding its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement not only 
jeopardized public health across the developing world, but also 
severely damaged the company's reputation in developed and developing 
countries. Nearly 500,000 people around the world have lent their 
support to petitions calling on Novartis to pull the case. 
Furthermore, Novartis has also been questioned by numerous high-level 
political actors in India, across Europe and in the United States. 
Novartis' actions, and the resulting backlash against the company, 
raise fears among investors of a regulatory backlash and a further 
erosion of the pharmaceutical industry's reputation, which is already 
questioned in key emerging markets such as India.

Oxfam and ICCR now call on Novartis to take positive steps to 
recognize the importance of ensuring access to medicines in 
developing countries, especially by taking new, positive steps to 
improve access to medicines. The organizations note that this could 
include promoting research and development for neglected diseases 
while also striking an appropriate balance between protecting public 
health safeguards in developing countries and intellectual property 
rights.

NOTES:

The provision in the Indian law - "section 3d" - states that patent 
monopolies will be awarded only for truly innovative medicines, 
rather than for minor modifications of existing medicines. Because 
monopolies will not be granted on medicines other than truly 
innovative ones, affordable generic versions will remain available. 
This will help protect India's role as the main supplier of 
affordable generics to other developing countries where patented 
medicines are priced out of reach of most people.
This ruling comes at a time when patentability criteria are under 
examination in other countries as well, for instance the United 
States. Recognizing that patentability criteria which lead to the 
granting of frivolous patents can hinder innovation and access to new 
products rather than promote it, the US Supreme Court has recently 
ruled in favor of stricter criteria.
The provision in Indian law under challenge by Novartis constitutes 
an important public health safeguard in TRIPS. Developing countries 
should be commended for using this and other safeguards to promote 
access to affordable medicines for their populations. Oxfam supports 
use of public health safeguards - recent examples include the 
issuance of compulsory licenses by Brazil and Thailand, and the 
introduction of a new, pro-health intellectual property law in the 
Philippines.
The right of all WTO members to use the flexibilities and safeguards 
in the TRIPS Agreement to promote "access to medicines for all" was 
confirmed in 2001 (the Doha Declaration). Since then, however, rich 
countries and big pharmaceutical companies have sought to prevent or 
limit their use by developing countries, endangering the well-being 
of poor patients everywhere.



For more information please contact:

Laura Rusu, Press Officer
Oxfam America
202-459-3739
www.oxfamamerica.org

Lauren Compere
ICCR
617-720-5557

www.oxfamamerica.org



News Categories: CSR - General and Human Rights



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