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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Indian Supreme Court in landmark patent ruling against Novartis

Campaigners for affordable medicine in the developing world have hailed a decision by the Indian Supreme Court to refuse a patent to a Swiss pharmaceutical giant for an anti-Leukaemia drug.

In a decision that will enable generic drugs manufacturers in India to continue producing cheaper variants of life-saving medicine, the Supreme Court refused to grant Novartis AG a patent on the anti-cancer drug Glivec.

The drug, first developed in the late 1990's, has been hailed as a breakthrough in fighting a variety of cancers of the blood, costs a reported £2600 a month as a branded medicine while generic versions produced in India cost as little as £50.

The ruling means other drug companies will also be prevented from obtaining patents on updated versions of existing drugs, allowing generic manufacturers to continue making cheaper variants for millions of people unable to afford branded medicine.

Pratibha Singh, a lawyer for Indian generics drug producer Cipla told the AFP that the “ruling will have implications not just for India but also for other Asian, African and Latin American countries”.

Novartis and other manufacturers say that patents are essential to protect the millions spent in research and development of drugs.

India's £15 billion generic drugs industry supplies some 20% of the world's imitation drugs , including affordable variants of HIV/AIDS-fighting anti-retroviral drugs to Africa.

- Viji Alles

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