A victory for Novartis could spell death for millions

A reminder that Novartis is still challenging Section 3(d) in the Indian Supreme Court against the sane advice of people from all walks of life from across the world…

Many of you will remember that in 2005, the Indian parliament had to change India’s patent law to comply with the international trade rules. The Indian Parliament knew that AIDS treatment costs dropped from $10,000 to $60 thanks to generic competition from India.

So they inserted Section 3(d) a health safeguard in the Indian patent law that does not let companies get patents on new forms of old medicines or what is know as evergreening.

Evergreening is the practice of pharma companies to extend their patent protection (i.e. a monopoly of 20 years) on old or existing medicines by making minor changes in them.

Since 2005, people living with HIV have been in the patent office using Section 3(d) and other provisions to make sure key HIV medicines are not patented in India. As a direct result of these efforts, generic production of lamivudine/zidovudine, tenofovir, neverapine hemihydrate and other HIV medicines has continued.

Today over 80% of people living with HIV in the developing world are alive thanks to Indian generic ARVs.All this is at risk now with Swiss MNC Novartis challenging Section 3(d) in the Supreme Court – Novartis has sued the Government of India, cancer patients and several generic companies. The case hearing is TOMORROW. Although the case is about a cancer medicine, Novartis wants the Supreme Court to weaken Section 3(d) and its application – something that will have an impact on all medicines including HIV medicines. While health groups like the Cancer Patients Aid Association represented by the Lawyers Collective are part of this case, there is no indication that the government has appointed its top lawyer in this crucial case.The Supreme Court hearings start tomorrow and it is VITAL that the government immediately appoint the Attorney General in this matter of life and death. Unfortunately the current Solicitor General of India has actually appeared for Novartis in this case and so cannot be appointed in this matter.

It would also interest you to know that the current lawyer arguing for Novartis in the Supreme Court is Mr. Gopal Subramanium who till just a few months ago was the Solicitor General of India.

Millions of lives not only in India but across the developing world depend on the whether the government of India puts up a strong defence for this case.The government of India has to fulfill its responsibility of ensuring generic production not just for the people of India but for the people of all developing countries. As a first step, they should appoint the Attorney General on an urgent basis for this case.

You can read news article related to the case like this one:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2427529.ece

Since 2007 various groups have been asking Novartis to drop its various cases against India’s patent law. You can read more about this at these various sites:

Lawyers Collective: http://www.lawyerscollective.org/news/126-novartis-case-background-and-update-supreme-court-of-india-to-recommence-hearing.html

Cancer Patients Aid Association: http://www.cpaaindia.org/aboutus/theglivecstory.htm

Berne Declaration: http://www.evb.ch/en/p19070.html

Novartis Boycott: http://novartisboycott.org/
For any queries or information, write to: k0b0@yahoo.com

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