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Will not invest on R&D in India, says Novartis

Swiss pharma major Novartis Monday said it will not invest on research and development in India and move R&D to favourable destinations following the Supreme Court order rejecting its patent plea on cancer drug Glivec.

Mumbai: Novartis India, a unit of the Swiss pharma major, which lost patent plea for cancer drug Glivec in the Supreme Court Monday, described the verdict as a "set back for original innovation", and said the company will not invest on R&D in the country.

Novartis said, however, that it will cautiously continue to file for patents and innovative products here.

"We will continue to invest here, but with caution and file patent applications for innovative products," Novartis India Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Ranjit Shahani told reporters here this evening after the verdict.

In a serious blow to the company, and to the rest of the foreign pharma companies' financial interests from patented drug sales, the Supreme Court dismissed Novartis India's petition seeking patent protection for Glivec.

The denial clarifies limited intellectual property protection here and "discourages future innovation in the country", Shahani said.

A Supreme Court bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai dismissed the claim of the Swiss firm for getting exclusive rights for manufacturing the cancer drug on the ground that a new substance has been used in the medicine.

Shahani said the company brought this case because "we strongly believe patents safeguard innovation and encourage medical progress particularly for unmet medical needs. This ruling is setback for patients that will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options."

The company further said the primary concern of this case is with the country's growing non-recognition to intellectual property rights that sustain R&D for innovative medicines. As a leader in both innovative and generic medicines, Novartis strongly supports the contribution of generics to improving public health once drug patents expire.

Novartis filed a special leave petition at the Supreme Court in 2009, challenging the denial of the Glivec beta crystal form patent. The company said it also filed the case to help clarify some of the unique aspects of the patent law.

"Novartis has never been granted an original patent for Glivec here. We strongly believe that original innovation should be recognised in patents to encourage investments in medical innovation especially for unmet medical needs," Shahani said.

The court denied the appeal for Glivec, a life-saving medicine for certain form of cancer, patented in nearly 40 countries, including China, Russia and Taiwan, he added.


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