SC verdict on Glivec has positive global implications: South Centre

Our Bureau, MumbaiSaturday, April 6, 2013, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The South Centre, an intergovernmental organisation of developing countries, has welcomed the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, dismissing the petition from Novartis on Glivec and has termed the verdict as a historic decision with positive global implications.

The legal challenge from Novartis had alarmed patients groups, governments of developing countries and some international organisations in view of the possible negative implications for access to affordable medicines for patients in those countries if the petition of Novartis were to be allowed by the Supreme Court, said Martin Khor, executive director, South Centre.

Most developing countries strongly rely on Indian generic pharmaceutical companies for the supply of affordable medicines. Any weakening of Section 3 (d) would have enabled multinational pharmaceutical companies to extend their patent monopolies based on frivolous incremental improvements which – as in the case of imatinib - could delay the generic supply of essential medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, he said.

In this context, the decision by the Indian Supreme Court is very significant. In interpreting Section 3 (d), the judgement took into account the legislative history of Section 3 (d). The Supreme Court observed that this section was introduced in the Patents Act by the 2005 Amendment to ensure that while India allowed product patents on medicines in accordance with its TRIPS obligations, it did not compromise public health through ‘evergreening’ of pharmaceutical patents, Khor added.

Thus, the decision by the Supreme Court of India has significant positive global implications. It has effectively protected the leading role of India in supplying affordable medicines to other developing countries. The reaffirmation of the primacy of health and access to medicines as a right of citizens is particularly important for the international community when these rights are under significant  threat under bilateral trade and investment agreements. This decision is a triumph for all developing countries which will be able to continue importing affordable essential generic medicines from India. Developing countries can benefit further by emulating the Indian approach towards balancing patents and public health by discouraging evergreening. Finally, this decision also shows the importance of public health sensitivity in the judiciary in determining disputes on pharmaceutical  patents, he further said.

The South Centre was established by an Intergovernmental Agreement (Treaty) which came into force on July 31, 1995 with its headquarters in Geneva.