Fight over Novartis's patent to intensify

Published: Sunday 15 October 2006

The war over Glivec, a cancer treatment drug, is expected to intensify as two writ petitions filed by Novartis AG, the Swiss pharmaceutical group, come up for hearing on September 26, 2006, in the Madras High Court.

Petition 24754 was filed against the January 25, 2006, order of the assistant controller of patents and designs, Chennai Patent Office (CPO), which rejected the patent application for the beta-crystalline form of imatinib mesylate sold as Glivec by Novartis.

It is used for treating leukaemia and gastro-intestinal stromal tumours. Health groups vehemently opposed granting of imatinib mesylate's patent to Novartis, claiming it will lead to bans on other available generic cancer drugs and also increase the cost of cancer treatment.

The other, petition 24759, filed against the Union of India and six others, challenges the validity of section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act, 1970.According to Novartis, section 3(d) inserted in the 1970 Act is not just "invalid, illegal and unconstitutional", but also goes against the international agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Section 3(d) aims at preventing pharmaceutical companies from obtaining patents on old drugs.

Novartis AG, however, maintains that Glivec is a new invention and that CPO rejected it "without any legal or factual basis/justification".

-- nidhi jamwal Mumbai

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