Statement |

NGO statement on Novartis challenge to Indian Patent Act

Geneva/New Delhi, 29 January 2007 — A legal challenge brought by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis against the Government of India will be heard in the Chennai High Court today.

Novartis is seeking to overturn India’s refusal to grant a patent on the cancer drug the company markets as Gleevec/Glivec, and is also challenging the provision in the Indian Patents Act of 2005 which formed the basis for rejecting the Novartis patent.

When India amended its law in 2005 to implement the rules set by the World Trade Organization (WTO) governing pharmaceutical patents, the country included a provision that prevents companies from patenting small changes of existing drugs. This was done with respect to the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, in an attempt to secure access to affordable medicines. It is this provision that Novartis is trying to kill in the courts.

The stakes of the case reach far beyond India, and are global. Today, Indian generic manufacturers supply over 50% of all antiretroviral drugs given to patients in the developing world. But if Novartis wins and succeeds in getting the provision of the Indian law changed to resemble patent laws in wealthy countries, patents may be granted in India far more broadly.

Over 6,000 drug patents including for AIDS drugs are awaiting examination by the Indian patent offices. Whether patents on these medicines are granted may depend on the outcome of this case. If Novartis prevails, India will cease to be the pharmacy of the developing world, and access to medicines will be further threatened.

We urge Novartis to immediately cease its legal action in India.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Knowledge Ecology International
Health Action International
Third World Network
Delhi Network of Positive People, India
Centre for Trade and Development, India
Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor, Brazil
Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de Aids, Brazil
Grupo de Trabalho da REPRIB sobre Propriedade Intelectual (GTPI), Brazil
Berne Declaration, Switzerland

Ninety-one organisations and personalities from around the world also made a call to Novartis to drop the case in an open letter in October 2006 to Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis.