India’s Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling rejecting a longtime effort by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to block production of cheaper generic drugs. Novartis has sought patent protection for the cancer drug Glivec in India since 2006. The case was seen as a critical test of India’s ability to manufacture low-cost generic drugs that are distributed throughout the global South to treat infectious diseases. Speaking outside the courtroom earlier today, Leena Menghaney of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders praised the court’s decision.
Leena Menghaney: "It’s a huge relief, because we have more than 200,000 people living with HIV on treatment. Eighty percent of them come from India, the drugs come from India, so we were really worried that a Novartis win would mean that less number of drugs would be available for MSF procurement. So it’s a big, big relief for us that the drugs are now safe and secure and available to patients in developing countries."
On the eve of the ruling, Novartis had threatened to stop sending new medicines to India if the court did not decide in its favor. The judgment will likely affect other major pharmaceutical companies and their drug brands in India.