The 'Drop the Case' campaign in pictures

Novartis and “Drop the Case”: defending a key source of generic drugs

India is sometimes called “the pharmacy of the developing world,” because it manufactures so many affordable generic medicines relied on by millions of people around the world. The drug corporation Novartis took the Indian government to court in 2006, seeking to change the country’s laws so that corporations like Novartis could get more patents in India, which would stop the production of more affordable generic drugs.

We pushed back with our Drop the Case campaign in India and around the world, bringing pressure on Novartis to reconsider. For a full seven years, the corporation refused to end its bid to shut down a critical source of affordable drugs.

Nearly half a million people signed our Drop the Case petition, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author John Le Carré and former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. The campaign attracted extensive international media coverage and raised awareness of India’s role as a generic medicine producer.

In the end, Novartis never did drop the case. But in 2013, India’s Supreme Court ruled against the corporation. It was a major victory for people in developing countries who depend on affordable generic medicines to save lives and protect health.

Photograph by Sheila Shettle Photograph by Sheila Shettle

New Delhi. Hundreds of Indian activists protested in New Delhi on Monday against a challenge to the country's patent law by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. India produces affordable medicines that are vital to many people living in developing countries. Over half the medicines currently used for AIDS treatment in developing countries come from India and such medicines are used to treat over 80% of the 80,000 AIDS patients in MSF projects.

If Novartis is successful in its challenge against the Indian government and its patent law, more medicines are likely to be patented in India, making it very difficult for generic producers to make affordable versions of them. This could affect millions of people around the world who depend on medicines produced in India.