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Indian Supreme Court Denies Novartis Cancer Drug Patent 288

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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  • It's a good thing... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:19AM (#43334855)

    A 30 day supply of 400mg tabs of Gleevec (imatinib sulfate) runs a lil over 6 thousand dollars. That's right, 6k a month to keep patients with CML, HES and certain stomach cancers alive. It's gone up over 2 thousand a month in the last 3 years alone.

    If you have insurance, good insurance, you might pay around 50 bucks of that a month. Without insurance, you get to use prednisone til it or the cancer kills you.

    Way to go pharmaceutical companies... and 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... 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...

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:46AM (#43334939) Homepage Journal

    The 'technicality' is that drugs were not eligible for patent under their law at the time.

  • by sFurbo ( 1361249 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @05:07AM (#43335543)
    I don't live in the US and am not a doctor, so my knowledge is limited, but I will try to answer the best I can.

    1. Because we have decided that the risk of people being swindled by quacks become too large if we allow that. What you can do is enlist in a test of a new drug, which should give you access to less tested drugs.
    2. There really aren't two different points of view. In all applications of medicine, the chance of benefit must be weighed against the risk of harm. For tested medicine, we have a good estimate of them both, and a judgment can be made. For untested medicine, the prior plausibility of the harm/benefit ratio is deemed too unfavorable.
    3-4. I don't know, as I don't know the American system. But remember that fixed prices moves the risk to the hospital or doctor, and they have to be compensated for taking that risk, so it will mean more expensive treatment.
    5. The depends on the rate of false negatives and false positives. Any screening causes someone to experience side effects from unnecessary side effects, and some people to not get the treatment they need.
    6. I imagine hearing aids are expensive because they are fiendishly advanced. Out ears are able to pick out sounds with abysmal S/N (next time you are in a crowded, noisy room, try to see how many different conversations you can listen to simply by choosing one over the other), and the hearing aids have to work with that system. Also, sweat and ear wax are not the least corrosive environment, and any leaching might be problematic. For prosthetics, I imagine it could be done, though the list of materials and the way the prosthetic sticks to the body might be a problem.
  • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @07:06AM (#43335775) Homepage

    Correction: the price of testing drugs is mostly due to the bribes that need to be applied for them to be approved and the patents granted.

    About the closest thing to a bribe you'll see in first-world drug development is the payments to the doctors who participate in the clinical trials. That is actually a considerable part of the trial costs. The payment can't induce them to manipulate the trial results, since the doctors don't have the ability to do this (the trials are double-blind - if they lied and said the patient was doing better than they actually were it would just affect the placebo group as much). However, if you don't throw money at doctors they won't bother to tell their patients about the option of participating in the trial.

    Unfortunately, sometimes the money does cause doctors to enroll patients for whom the trials are inappropriate. Companies actually try to stop this, because it is likely to result in a drug NOT being approved (if you give a pill to somebody who is not expected to benefit from it, you add noise to the data which is already quite noisy).

    So, while lots of money in the pharma industry gets spent on lots of stuff, the fact remains that it does cost hundreds of millions of dollars to test drug candidates, and most of the time the testing demonstrates that the drug is not safe/effective.

    Oh, I'm all for having the NIH competitively do drug development/testing/etc (and making the resulting drugs freely licensable within the US, for use in 3rd world countries, and in 1st world countries that make similar investments and reciprocate). However, I don't think that it will magically make the testing less expensive, unless the whole healthcare system changes so that doctors can be compelled to participate in trials without much additional compensation (that is something that would be more likely to work in a country with nationalized healthcare, though it is worth pointing out that clinical trials tend to happen on a global scale anyway).

    In the drug industry the patent system is in part used to let the high-risk/high-cost of development pay for itself. A tweaked molecule might not be very innovative, but it is just as expensive to test. If rulings like this prevail then you simply won't see tweaked molecules developed using private money, even if the resulting drug is a substantial improvement for patients. Again, there are other ways to fund drug development, but I'd like to see those methods employed and demonstrated as successful before we just pull the plug on the drug industry. There is no reason that publicly funded efforts can't just compete with the private ones - the public drugs would be much cheaper for consumers so they'll have no trouble if the R&D labs manage to come up with the goods. The pharma industry has been laying off so many scientists of late that the NIH shouldn't have trouble hiring some...

  • by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @03:28PM (#43341021) Journal

    3. Pharma company goes on to spend $10M to show that the molecule will never work in people.

    4. Pharma company spends about $100M on the molecule and it works out.

    But in your hypothetical scenario you forgot the $2 billion [huffingtonpost.com] they spent on advertising and marketing.

    I'm not faulting you, but every time criticism of pharmaceuticals comes up everybody raves about high research costs while ignoring that these are not the main expenditure. Apologists also tend to forget about sheer mountain of money "Big Pharma" rakes in each year. There's a line somewhere between "making a profit" and "being a malevolent drain on society", and I think they've crossed well over it.

    And this doesn't mention all the potential "negative future revenue" drugs that might have been squashed or hidden away, but that's another topic.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas