Would have been my headline. Apparently, the New York Times byline writer was more concerned about a multi billion dollar company losing a small amount of money than the fact that a different ruling in this case would have made life saving drugs unaffordable for millions of people. When did American newspapers become shills for the elite?
Indian companies will be free to continue making less expensive generic drugs, much of which flow to the developing world, after a court rejected a challenge to the patent law on Monday.
Aid organizations declared the ruling a victory for the “rights of patients over patents,” but the Swiss drug company Novartis, which filed the case, warned that the ruling would discourage investments in innovation and would undermine drug companies’ efforts to improve their products.
At issue is the degree of innovation required for a drug to be regarded as truly “new”, where there is a significant enough chance for failure that the company would never develop it unless afforded monopoly rights for 10 years. A very well known tactic by drug companies is to make a slightly different formulation of an existing drug, say an extended release form of a drug which takes a little longer to dissolve, and hence is available to the body at a different time. Under US patent law, this qualifies for full patent protection on the extended release form. By now, the science of making an extended release tablet is well known, it’s just a question of formulating the drug with a different set of inactive ingredients that take longer to dissolve, or sometimes, through a differently engineered tablet. The chemistry of this change is predictable, published and not really innovative. Why should these small changes have patent protection?
Bonus Note: Madras is my home city, so I’m glad it was decided there!