Landmark generic medicines victory

April 1, 2013

Oxfam hails ruling for putting human rights before excessive profits.

The Indian Supreme Court's ruling against a patent protection petition filed by multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis is a huge victory for public health, says Oxfam.

The court has “put public health before commercial profits” by dismissing the Novartis application to patent the anti-cancer medicine Glivec, said Oxfam India's CEO Nisha Agrawal.

The ruling allows Indian makers of generic medicines to continue making affordable versions of the medicine, used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia, which kills 80-90 per cent of sufferers.

Agrawal said: “We’re not against companies making profits, but against companies charging exorbitant amounts for life-saving medicines in the name of patents. Patenting this medicine would have defeated the very purpose of it – to treat patients suffering from cancer. This important medicine would be of no use to cancer survivors if they can’t afford to buy it.”

“India supplies most of the generic medicines consumed in the world’s poorest countries,” said Mark Fried, policy coordinator at Oxfam Canada.

“Had this ruling gone the other way, it would have opened the floodgates to patent extensions, jacking up the price of medicine across the developing world, where paying out of pocket for medicine often drives families into destitution.”

Currently, Glivec is priced at $2,200 (120,000 Indian rupees) for a monthly dose. The court ruling will make way for a generic version of the medicine which will be 90 per cent cheaper than the patented version – about $184. Even so, the generic version may still not be affordable to millions of patients in India where health expenditure is one of the most important reasons for indebtedness.


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For more information contact:

Juliet O’Neill
Oxfam Canada media contact

Phone: 613-240-3047

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