A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Novartis essentially was caught red-handed in its attempt to “EverGreen” a drug patent. What is ever-greening – essentially making meaningless changes to a drug and claiming that it is new. Do you remember the famous saying in the last US election – “Putting Lipstick On […]

A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Novartis essentially was caught red-handed in its attempt to “EverGreen” a drug patent. What is ever-greening – essentially making meaningless changes to a drug and claiming that it is new. Do you remember the famous saying in the last US election – “Putting Lipstick On a Pig” (that is – it still remains a pig) – ever-greening a patented drug is essentially that. In all of the western world, Canada, Australia, etc. – there are specific laws that prevent Drug Companies from such practices. In India, the supreme court judgment has just laid down that particular guideline and correctly so.

 Novartis   EverGreening   Cancer Drugs

Threatening The Indian Government With Consequences

Of course, Novartis , did the classic – “we will have to cautiously invest in India and that the climate for intellectual property is poor” – of course “a good climate” would have meant monopolistic profits for the company at the expense of “poor” cancer patients !! And when I say “poor” cancer patients , I refer to their losing any savings that they might have had to buy the drug and thereby becoming poor in the process, and not referring to their health. That is literally (repeating here), you would have become poor if you had used the patented drug.

Many court cases are lost and won in the western world – no one turns around and threatens the government ? Why does this happen in India – this is bizarre. I propose the government should deal with this with a  strong hand – force them to pay crores in legal fees to Cipla (thank heavens for them) for sure (which is the norm in the western world). And as regards their cautious investments – that is total “bunkuss”. They will be as cautious as the size of the markets – and the Indian market is big and getting bigger.

Drug Companies Prefer Monopolies

Trivia – what is the best climate (re-using the words from Novartis) for business – “one where you can charge an unlimited amount and with no substitute product” – that is what the drug companies want. In the US , the entire medical system has become a prisoner to these drug companies. On top of which they have also started to control the entire distribution mechanism for drugs ensuring that doctors don’t recommend generics and that pharmacies do not carry them. What is the solution ? Am I advocating some sort of socialism with free medicines and free hospitalization – No, we have seen the ill effects of that as well. And if you don’t know what I mean , please do visit one of our government hospitals next time you have an ailment – please be sure to leave your last-will duly filled at home. OK, I am being harsh here – but you know what I mean. What I am advocating is competition among drugs manufacturers, among pharmacies, among hospital systems and a reasonable reward for research and new product development.

Local Pharmaceutical Companies

In India, perhaps the only manufacturing in which we have any prowess is the pharmaceutical industry – Cipla, Ranbaxy, Divi’s Labs, Dr Reddy’s Labs, and the list goes on. Let us make sure they have a level playing field to the western companies. Let me re-phrase that , lets make sure they have a home turf advantage over the western companies (the multi-nationals already have advantage of huge size and global reach which are major advantages to begin with)– that is the job of our government. Let us not forget that. The supreme court judgment was an unbiased opinion, an interpretation of the law. But we also need policies that help in growth of our local pharmaceutical companies – Is the government listening ?

By Indrajit Chetterjee

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