Pharma alerted as Novartis hit by India ruling

Julian Harris
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SHARES in the Indian branch of pharmaceutical giant Novartis slumped 1.8 per cent yesterday after the company lost a landmark case over patent protection for a key cancer drug.

The decision by India’s supreme court to throw out Novartis’s efforts to protect its Glivec product could have ramifications for other global pharma companies.

“The multinational companies will have to find new ways of doing business in India,” said Deepak Malik, healthcare analyst at brokerage Emkay Global.

Pfizer and Roche are battling to defend the status of their drugs in India. Towards the end of last year Roche had its patent on a hepatitis C drug named Pegasys revoked, while Pfizer was angered by a loss of protection for its cancer drug Sutent.

India has a huge industry in producing generic pharmaceuticals. Among the chief beneficiaries of yesterday’s ruling will be Cipla and Natco, which already sell generic versions of Glivec in India at around one-tenth of the price of Novartis’s branded drug.

Firms that seek to develop patented drugs also face ongoing campaigns from activist groups opposed to the application of intellectual property on healthcare products.

“This ruling is a setback for patients that will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options,” said Novartis India’s Ranjit Shahani yesterday.

The company said it provides Glivec free of charge to 95 per cent of patients prescribed the drug in India, irrespective of the patent case.