Indian high court rules against drug company in patent fight

New Delhi, Apr 1 (EFE).- Swiss-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG saw its bid to patent a new version of a cancer medication blocked on Monday by the Indian Supreme Court.

The judges agreed with activists and generic drug makers that the changes to cancer drug Glivec were not of sufficient magnitude to justify treating it as a new medication.

This ruling acknowledges that the rights of the poor are important in India and also benefits patients in the developing world because the Novartis med cost $2,600 per patient per month and generic versions of the drug only cost $200, according to Anand Grover, an attorney representing the Cancer Patients Aid Association.

He said Novartis will have to pay court costs, although the Swiss company will have 90 days to appeal the sentence.

Decrying a "setback for patients," Novartis India managing director Ranjit Shahani said the ruling "will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options."

Some analysts said a favorable ruling for Novartis could have endangered India's role as a main provider of inexpensive medications for developing countries.

India stopped granting patents for medicines in 1970, but the law was amended in 2005 to comply with the World Trade Organization regulations.

New Delhi at that time began allowing the registration of new medicines but established the criterion that patient improvement must occur for pharmaceutical firms to be able to claim a significant innovation and thus be granted a patent.