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Indian Supreme Court Denies Novartis Cancer Drug Patent 288

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the better-luck-next-time dept.
beltsbear writes "Following a reasonable view of drug patents, the Indian courts have decided that making small changes to an existing patented drug are not worthy of a new patent. This ruling makes way for low cost Indian cancer drugs that will save lives. From the Article: 'Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. The ruling opens the way for generic companies in India to manufacture and sell cheap copies of the drug in the developing world and has implications for HIV and other modern drugs too.'"
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Indian Supreme Court Denies Novartis Cancer Drug Patent

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  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:20AM (#43334863) Journal

    The only good patent is an expired patent.

  • by fufufang (2603203) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:31AM (#43334891)

    Without the big investment by the pharmaceutical companies, new drugs would not have existed in the first place. It is a high-risk and high-reward business. However extorting dying patients is a bit morally questionable. But hey, we live in a society where everything can be measured by money.

    Having said that, I think if the modification is small, and the investment into this new modification is small, then patent shouldn't be granted. I hope India doesn't end up with U.S's patenting culture, where the rounded corner on a phone can be patented.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:32AM (#43334893)
    This doesn't make sense to me. If they make a small change, the small change should be patentable -- but that should in no way effect the extent of the patent on the original formulation. In other words, patenting the small change shouldn't stop anybody from copying the original drug. And if the "small change" actually makes a real difference in effectiveness, isn't that an argument that it _should_ be patentable?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:43AM (#43334931)

    This bullshit has gone on for long enough. Most of the actual research whose fruits end up as drugs are often made by researchers with federal funding. The actual amount of money put into research is much lower than what Pharma wants us to believe, and often R&D involves a significant amount of activities unconnected with Research. Hence, you will be unable to find actual cost of research for any pharma company - inspite of all the financial documents available for the public firms.

    High risk and high reward is a again a bit of an overkill considering that most of the research dollars are spent on coming up with new compounds/drugs which are barely more effective than the medicines they replace. These new drugs are significantly more expensive than the drugs they replace and accompanied by huge marketing campaigns that increase pressure on the doctors by the patients clamoring for the new drug.

      In addition they keep coming up with small changes to existing compounds and re-patent it .. thus circumventing the very process which they seem to talk so much about. Even when 'evergreening' does not work, they try to involve the generic manufacturer into drawn out legal process. Again - all this inspite of the 1984 Hatch-Waxman act which pushes the patent during out to make up for time spent in research before the actual drug is released.

    Considering the Pharma industry has spent over $2.1B in lobbying alone (for stuff like faster approvals, no volume pricing negotiations for Medicare etc.) .. I think it is one of the most corrupt industries in USA>

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:58AM (#43334971)

    It's a smart move, and I'm surprised that there aren't more governments catching on. If I can get cheap treatment in your country, it may even be cheaper to be treated there, including the plane ticket.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish@info.gmail@com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:02AM (#43334989)

    They seem to understand "My right to live trumps your supposed 'right' to make money" pretty damned well, though.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:12AM (#43335019)
    It's a smart move in the short term, in the long term, who knows? If this means less R&D spending on medicine, we might be worse off.
  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:18AM (#43335029) Journal

    Without the big investment by the pharmaceutical companies, new drugs would not have existed in the first place.

    I don't believe that. More money goes into lobbying for preferential treatment and marketing than development, while many older, perfectly suitable remedies are taken off the market and prohibited altogether. And before anybody goes off about safety issues, they should read up on the deaths and other side effects caused by many of the new drugs. Modern pharma is a pretty corrupt operation. Regulatory capture is just as big here as in energy, communications, and transportation.

  • You're trying to talk sense to someone who thinks "American" is a language.

    The word I'd normally use to describe such an exercise is, "futile".

  • by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:21AM (#43335049)

    do you really think they are working on a cure when they can rake in thousands of dollars a month from each and every cancer patient??? Yeah right... think again...

    I would expect all of the other drug companies to also want a piece of that pie. That means they have to come up with something that works better.

    If they understand the cancer well enough to halt it in it's tracks for 90 to 95% of the patients that are treatable by this drug, and another 90 to 95 of those that take it are alive and in full remission 5+ years later, they certainly know enough to track down a cure if they were so inclined to do so.

    Greedy bastards...

    You are vastly, massively underestimating the complexity of cancer and of the human biology.

  • by Zemran (3101) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:23AM (#43335063) Homepage Journal

    Errr, for profit is the normal reason. Why do you believe that it must be impossible to make a profit if other people can make a profit? You just have to do a good job if you want to do well. The idea of intellectual property is that you no longer have to bother doing a good job, you just have to own the right to something imaginary and you can make people pay for it. It is the most stupid and destructive idea ever. It will ruin people's lives for a long time and people will have to fight to get free of this idea. What is left of the US economy seems to be being based on this dream but it will get rejected just like it did in the middle ages. For hundreds of years, our economy and the economies of most of the world flourished without this BS, yet fools still think that it would be impossible to live without it.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:25AM (#43335067) Journal

    ibid [slashdot.org].. That argument has been debunked a long time ago. Those millions aren't going where you think they are.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:42AM (#43335117)
    People have been saying that the drug companies spend a lot of money on other things for a long time, but that isn't really relevant to my post.
    Some of the money we spend on drugs today are used to test new drugs. If we are going to end the system we have today, I would prefer if we had a new system in place before that. So, what is your system for testing new drugs, and when can it be implemented? And remember, it really does cost hundreds of millions of dollars to be reasonably sure that a drug works and is safe, so your system had better be somewhat resistant towards corruption.
  • Re:Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:10AM (#43335173)

    And remember, it really does cost hundreds of millions of dollars to be reasonably sure that a drug works and is safe, so your system had better be somewhat resistant towards corruption.

    It is the current system that has issues with corruption, because the companies financing the testing have profit motives.
    There is no magic to publicly funding non-profit research/testing. It would however seem like magic because it is safer and cheaper.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:11AM (#43335179) Journal

    ...it really does cost hundreds of millions of dollars...

    Yes, because it's closed market. The regulations are designed to make it too expensive to compete. It is the epitome of 'crony capitalism'. And the whole process is done behind closed doors. That must end. However none of this is going to happen until we stop reelecting company politicians who appoint company bureaucrats. And furthermore, the efficacy and safety of many of today's pharmaceuticals are highly dubious. We can do much better if we demand some transparency at the very least. Make them open the books. There should be nothing to prevent the government from hiring scientists to create drugs also. Let's give these companies some real competition. Put our tax dollars to work for us for a change, instead of subsidizing the industry.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:38AM (#43335249)

    Is this akin to the "if we don't get unlimited copyright, the music will die"?

    I highly doubt that this is going to make pharmacological research unprofitable. Maybe it will even lead to new medication when they can't milk the very same crap forever.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xeno man (1614779) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:39AM (#43335251)
    It means R&D will be spend on NEW medicine. Much less will be spent on slightly improving existing medicine. You do know the R&D stands for research and design. They would have to do some NEW research.

    Financially it makes much more sense to take your existing product, make it slightly stronger or last slightly longer and file for a new patent and basically double your patent length.
  • Re:Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:44AM (#43335263)
    The price of testing drugs is mostly due to the number of people in the tests, and the number of people determine how certain we can be on the estimates of efficacy and efficiency. You can get cheaper testing, or you can get better testing, but getting both is tricky.

    That being said, more transparency would be nice. At least force them to publish all human testing of the drugs. Or even better, remove the testing from the drug companies, though it would be problematic to ensure that they have no power over it.

    As for the using government money for testing drugs, it is an intriguing idea, but corruption would still be a problem, given the amount of money at stake. I am not sure whether it would be a larger or smaller problem than today.
  • by black6host (469985) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:00AM (#43335297)

    Oh and the numbers I gave are based on the U.S. Dollar, inside the United States.

    I've been in remission for over 3 years thanks to Gleevec, but it still sucks that they (Novartis) push for profiteering over saving lives.

    I'm happy to hear you're in remission, even though I don't know you personally.

    You know, we have no problems taking peoples property under eminent domain for the "good of the people". There was a business owner where I used to live who was forced to sell his property to the local gov't because they needed to turn it into a parking lot to support the major retail center across the street. The reason put forth: the additional tax revenue would benefit the public. Of course the builder of this retail/hotel/restaurant center stood to profit the most and I am confident was the one who persuaded the city to take the property with the thought of increased revenue. Bastard.

    I'd like to see eminent domain apply to drugs that would help save, or greatly prolong the lives of many people. That makes sense to me. But it's not the big companies who get screwed.....

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:00AM (#43335301)

    Sure, but not the abuses of patents that we see now. If they want a new patent then develop a new drug. Don't just tweak the old one and demand a new monopoly on it.

  • by fredprado (2569351) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:14AM (#43335323)
    Drug research should be a public endeavor. Drug production can be a private endeavor, without silly protections, as patents.
  • by bfandreas (603438) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:34AM (#43335377)
    Basic research is a public endeavor. A lot of the basics get done by universities. Sometimes in cooperation with the pharma industry sometimes on government grants sometimes on venture capital sometimes all of those .
    The pharma industry does also research on its own but that is about turning the basic concepts discovered in proper research into products. The industry has been calling foul over patent limitations for ages. But they do not have a leg to stand on.

    A lot of the so called innovation is turning something from subcutaneous shots into pills. I'm sorry, but that is nothing that takes BEEEELLLIONS to research. It's worthwhile. But it's not the tedious research bit where you painstakingly find out how an illness works and how to counter it. The basic groundwork that sometimes takes decades has already been done.

    Pharma innovation is mostly about rounded corners. Whenever you hear the word "innovation" issues by an industry spokes critter ALWAYS think "rounded corners". Those are the guys who put receptionists into lab coats in their commercials.
  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:06AM (#43335425)

    My understanding is that the bulk of the money is spent on marketing and sales.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:59AM (#43335527) Journal

    Only a complete fool, April or otherwise, would base anything on imaginary property. There is nothing intellectual about that.

    All property is imaginary. Anything external to you can only be described as belonging to you because of the cultural and legal framework that defines property. Property is a matter of convention, not fact.

    So intellectual property is no more or less foolish than any other kind of property.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @05:03AM (#43335531) Journal
    The simple and obvious answer is to nationalise the drugs companies, just as water, electricity, internet supply, banks, farms and other similar activities should be nationalised. Companies should not be allowed to make profits out of basic human necessities.

    Capitalism is only good for iPhones or other unnecessary luxuries, since I don't give a toss if Apple can persuade people to spend five hundred quid on a piece of electronic jewellery

  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @05:42AM (#43335629)
    If you don't mind a lot of people getting hurt because science is hard to understand, and it is hard to understand that it is hard to understand, that system could work. I do care that people get hurt, even if it is by their own lack of insight into science, partly because I know there are areas I do not know enough about to make judgments in, or even to recognize experts. And probably some that I don't know I don't know enough about.
  • Re:Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rich0 (548339) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @07:15AM (#43335807) Homepage

    It depends on how you count failures.

    If you ask me "how much does it cost to find out if this molecule is a good drug?" the answer would probably be around $1M - $100M. Most of the time relatively-inexpensive screening would figure out that it won't work. Other times it would require trials that would be aborted at various points in time, costing up to $100M.

    If you ask me "how much was spent just on testing that one drug that was approved last week?" the answer would probably be around $100M. Successful drugs consume the upper limit of the testing costs since they need to go through the full gamut of testing to be approved.

    If you ask me "what is the total R&D budget of a typical pharma company over 5 years divided by the number of approved drugs they've had in that period of time?" the answer would be in the billions. The reason for this is that most drugs turn out not to work, so before you can spend the $100M on the drug that works you first have to spend $100M on lots of molecules that don't work.

    It really isn't hard to see for yourself. Most drug companies publicize their annual R&D investments (which don't go to stuff like marketing). They certainly publicize drug approvals. Just pick a company and do the math, but makes sure you count actual new drugs, and not just new indications (which are somewhat cheaper to come up with, and certainly lower risk).

    Companies do spend more on marketing than research, but the research costs are still astronomical. There are other models, and I'm all for trying some out, but it would make sense to get a new drug discovery model working before simply dismantling the one we already have.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rich0 (548339) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @07:24AM (#43335829) Homepage

    They seem to understand "My right to live trumps your supposed 'right' to make money" pretty damned well, though.

    That's kill the goose that laid the golden gate logic. The new drug wouldn't have been tested if the company had known it couldn't be patented in advance. They would only have had the option of using the old drug - an option they would still have had if they had ruled differently (the patent for new drug A2 does not extend the patent on related drug A1).

    I do agree that the way we fund drug development is highly regressive. I'm all for public R&D going to license-free drugs. However, don't think that it will somehow magically make the drugs cheaper - it will only change who pays for them.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:23AM (#43336317) Homepage
    The simple and obvious answer is to nationalise the drugs companies, just as water, electricity, internet supply, banks, farms and other similar activities should be nationalised.
    So how long should this Great Leap Forward [wikipedia.org] take? 5 years?
  • Re:Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bugler412 (2610815) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:21PM (#43338405)
    And the original patent term should be more than adequate for that! Making minor adjustments to an existing patented drug, like "time release" for instance in order to justify a new patent is an old shell game for the drug companies.

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