US may take India to WTO over cheap cancer drug licence

The US thinks it is the Indian drug industry which will get the advantage of a cheaper Nexavar, not its cancer patients.

report in The Economic Times says the US patent office and the House of Representatives have threatened to take India to the World Trade Organisation for issuing a compulsory licence to manufacture generic version of the pricey Nexavar of Bayer.

The international patent trade problems in the civil laws space seem to be driven by governments to benefit their domestic industry, Bob Goodlatte, a Republican Party member and member of the House sub-committee on intellectual property, was quoted as saying in the report.

“It seems that they are getting a free pass as they devalue the patented innovation of the American companies,” he says.

A compulsory licence is given by the government to company, allowing it to produce a patented drug without a permission from the patent holder.

The Indian government had given a compulsory licence –the first one of its kind – to produce Nexavar to Natco Pharma.

The move had brought down the price of Nexavar to Rs 8,800 from Rs 200,000 for a pack of 120 tablets to be consumed in one month, the report said.

The US now says the granting of compulsory licence by the Indian government is against international trade rules.

Bayer had earlier contested the licence in the Intellectual Property Appellate Board saying, “the order of the Patent Controller of India damages the international patent system and endangers pharmaceutical research”.

According to the company, it is the marketing exclusivity period of about six months that help drug companies recover the costs associated with the research and development of medicine.

India has however, maintained that the Indian Patent Office’s move has not violated any international trade pact. “…This (invoking compulsory licence) is very much in conformity with the international agreement under the WTO,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Shamra was quoted as saying in a recent media report.

A recent study found that more than 5,56,000 cancer deaths occurred in India in 2010 and most cancer patients in the country die without medical attention.

If the US moves the WTO, cancer patients’ wait for cheaper drug may just get longer.

(curtsey : first post)

Rupesh Yatesh Dalal
Head Research Department

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