April 1 - Swiss drug firm Novartis fails to win a patent protection case in India, which could affect other Western pharmaceutical companies looking to increase sales in the country. Jessica Gray reports.
Residents in India's capital New Delhi form long queues at this pharmacy. The country is home to a drugs market that grows between 13 and 14 percent every year, making it an attractive investment for Western pharmaceutical companies. But a landmark court ruling could change that. On Monday, India's top court rejected a bid by Swiss drug-maker Novartis to win patent protection for its cancer drug, Glivec. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADVOCATE FOR RANBAXY, PRATIBHA M SINGH, SAYING: "The Supreme Court judgment today in the Novartis case is that Novartis' appeal has been dismissed." The court said the drug could not be patented as a new medicine because the formula was based on an amended version of a known compound. Activists have welcomed the decision, saying many Indians cannot afford branded medicines. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANAGER, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES (MSF), LEENA MENGHANEY, SAYING: "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 is a big, big relief for us that the drugs are now safe and secure and available to patients in developing countries." The decision is likely to affect other drugs companies and their branded products, and is seen as a serious blow to Western pharmaceutical firms. Patented medicines make up less than 10 percent of total drugs sales in India.