Novartis Disputes India For Misrepresenting Position On Patent Laws


Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) (VTX:NOVN), the Swiss pharmaceutical company, continues to dispute India regarding the country’s patent laws and accused it of misrepresenting its position in the issue, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Novartis CEO’s letter to Anand Sharma

Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) (VTX:NOVN) wrote to Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry of India rejecting his statement that the pharmaceutical company was “pleased” with the intellectual property laws in the country. He learned about it from a member of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and a U.S. senator.

Jimenez’ letter reads, “During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., I learned of statements attributed to you by a member of the United States Senate and the head of PhRMA that Novartis is ‘pleased’ with India’s [intellectual property] laws. Let me assure you this is not the case.”

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Response from India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry

India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, through its secretary S.R. Rao, responded and explained that Sharma was referring to a different pharmaceutical company during the meeting in Washington.

In his letter last month, Rao emphasized that multinational pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) (VTX:NOVN) are benefiting from India’s patent laws. According to Rao, “You would appreciate that more than 80 percent of patents registered in India are attributed to non-Indians. Multinational pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis have been major beneficiaries of India’s patent regime which is evident in the fact that Novartis has 147 patents registered in its name in India.”

He also suggested that the pharmaceutical company should apply a balanced and objective approach instead of isolating one incident to create an unfair impression about the country’s patent laws. He said. “I suggest that opinions should be formed on the basis of facts and not on speculation.”

Novartis lost the patent battle

Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) (VTX:NOVN) lost its patent battle in India for  its flagship cancer drug Glivec (also known as Gleevec) after the Supreme Court in the country ruled that it should not receive a patent for the drug because it failed to demonstrate that it offers superior efficacy than its predecessor. The pharmaceutical company argued the Glivec is superior compared with the older version of the cancer drug because it is 30% easier for the body to absorb the medicine.

Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) (VTX:NOVN) stated its concerns regarding India’s actions. In a statement, the pharmaceutical wrote, “As a result of India’s actions, we are concerned about the extent to which we can rely on patents in India.”

Meanwhile, one of the officials of India’s Commerce and Trade Ministry stressed, “Every intellectual property right in India is in compliance with World Trade Organization laws. If companies aren’t satisfied they are free to approach the WTO for dispute redressal.”

Other companies applying for patents

Last month, Roche Holding Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) (VTX:ROG) stated that it will not apply for patent for its breast cancer drug Herceptin in India because of the current application and intellectual property situation in the country.

Bayer AG (ADR) (OTCMKTS:BAYRY) (FRA:BAYN) (ETR:BAYN) failed to received a patent for its cancer drug Nexavar, while GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK) (LON:GSK)’s patent for its cancer drug Tykerb was revoked by the Intellectual Property Board in India.

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