India Rejects Bayer AG Plea Against Cheap Cancer Drug

Published: Mar 05, 2013

An Indian patent appeals board upheld on Monday a decision to allow a domestic company to sell a generic version of Bayer AG's cancer drug Nexavar, in a blow for global drugmakers' efforts to hold on to monopolies on high-price medicines. The ruling paves the way for the issue of more so-called compulsory licenses as governments, particularly in emerging markets such as China and Thailand, battle to bring down healthcare costs and provide access to affordable drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, HIV-AIDS and hepatitis. Bayer, Germany's largest drugmaker, said it would continue to fight to overturn the decision, which it said weakened the international patent system and endangered pharmaceutical research. Under a global Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, countries can issue compulsory licenses on certain drugs that are deemed unaffordable to a large section of their populations. India's $13 billion drug market is seen by drugmakers as a huge opportunity, but there are concerns about the level of protection for intellectual property in the country -- where generic medicines account for more than 90 percent of drug sales -- after a series of judicial setbacks for "big pharma". COMPULSORY LICENCE CHALLENGED: Last year, the Indian patents office allowed Natco Pharma to sell generic Nexavar at 8,800 rupees ($160) for a month's dose -- a fraction of Bayer's price of 280,000 rupees. Bayer challenged this decision to grant Natco a compulsory license at the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in the southern city of Chennai. On Monday the board dismissed the petition, although it did order Natco Pharma to pay a royalty of 7 percent on sales of generic Nexavar to Bayer, an increase from the 6 percent royalty that had earlier been set.

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