Celebration for Patients after India's Landmark Drug Ruling
Buncombe, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
Activists say Pounds 17bn generic medicine industry saves lives of millions, writes Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
For Sourabh Ghosh, it was nothing less than a matter of life or death.
Diagnosed with leukaemia more than a decade ago, the Delhi student was able to obtain a life-saving but expensive Swiss- produced medicine, firstly through a donation scheme and later through his medical insurance while studying in the United States.
But when he returned to India in 2008, he was told he would have to pay for the drug. His salvation came in the form of a copy-cat medicine manufactured by an Indian company at a fraction of the cost.
"It would have been a disaster if this alternative was not available. If I stopped taking medicine the leukaemia would have relapsed," said Mr Ghosh, 40, now a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology. "If you don't treat it, it becomes aggressive. The patient will die after six to eight months."
Mr Ghosh was yesterday among millions of people around the world celebrating a decision by India's highest court not to grant a patent to a drugs manufacturer in a case campaigners say will help safeguard the ability of patients to afford life-saving medicine.
In a landmark case, the supreme court rejected a patent application by Novartis AG for a drug it claims was an updated anti- leukaemia treatment. Activists said the judgment would protect India's 17bn generic drug industry, which makes cheaper imitations of life-saving medicine.
The dispute involving Novartis, a Swiss-based multi-national pharmaceutical company, dated back seven years and centred on its attempt to seek a patent for its anti-cancer drug Glivec. Celebrated as a breakthrough in treating forms of blood cancer, Glivec costs 1,700 a month in its branded form while the generic version is available in India from 115. The company claimed the drug was a new product while activists said it was merely a slightly modified version of a product whose patent had expired.
Activists said the ruling meant other drug companies would also be prevented from obtaining patents …
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Publication information: Article title: Celebration for Patients after India's Landmark Drug Ruling. Contributors: Buncombe, Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 2, 2013. Page number: 26. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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