Socialist Party hails decision against patent on anti-cancer drug

Socialist Party (India) strongly supported the Supreme Court decision to uphold access to essential medicines and deny patent protection to dummy innovations as claimed by Novartis. Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachchar also extended his support to Socialist Party's position. Novartis had sought a patent for Imatinib (brand name Gleevac or Glivac) which noted lawyer and UN Human Rights Commissioner Anand Grover said was the same molecule with little ‘tweaking’. The cost of this drug is INR 120,000 per month for blood cancer (leukemia) patients. After Supreme Court ruling the price of drug may fall steeply from INR 120,000 to perhaps INR 8000 – this is a huge step forward in terms of advancing access to essential medicines and also in protecting public health from interference from profit-driven corporations and markets.

In a debate between Novartis and Lawyer Anand Grover broadcasted on a public television, it was evident that the cost of research and development of this anti-cancer drug was largely borne by US government funded National Institute of Health (NIH) till Phase II study. Anand Grover argued that even if we believe Novartis’ claim that it has spent USD 800 million on R&D of this drug, then it had recovered this amount from its sales in first year, and has earned astronomical profits on this drug since then for more than a decade – and tweaked the same-old molecule and applied for a fresh patent, which our honourable SC ruled against.

On a related note, Socialist Party's office bearers said to CNS that they are extremely concerned that negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the European Union and India, has proceeded without any due scrutiny by Parliament or other democratic institutions. We understand that there is a move to conclude the negotiations by the middle of April. It has come to Socialist Party’s knowledge that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce is examining the impact of FTAs but the government’s determination to sign the EU-India BTIA without waiting for the Committee’s report puts a big question mark on democratic processes which are so integral to our governance.

Socialist Party strongly condemned Government of India’s style of negotiating trade agreements. For example, why is the process of negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) so much under wraps? Why cannot people be engaged in the process and decision making of FTAs and other trade agreements or negotiations that directly affect access to seeds, essential medicines, among other basic needs of our people? We believe such policy level changes that can dramatically alter access to healthcare and food security for example, need public dialogue and opinion before a government can sign such agreements. At least an open discussion in parliament is the need of the hour – without which no government should be allowed to sign such agreements. In fact, it is against the basic spirit of the Indian Constitution.

Amul, India’s largest milk cooperative, has similarly expressed concern regarding the impact of subsidized dairy imports from the EU that can jeopardize the livelihood of 80 million farmers in India.

Socialist Party (India) demanded that the government of India must immediately suspend all negotiations with EU on trade and:
•    Hold public consultations in all states of India – report of which should feed into Parliamentary Standing Committee
•    Wait for Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee
•    The report of Parliamentary Standing Committee must be put up for discussion in both houses of the Parliament
•    Ensure these trade negotiations do not adversely affect agriculture in any way
•    Protect and promote generic production of essential medicines for all major health priorities of India

Socialist Party (India)'s position on the above issues was endorsed by Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachchar, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and National Vice President of Socialist Party Dr Sandeep Pandey, National General Secretary of Socialist Party Dr Prem Singh, National President of Socialist Yuvjan Sabha Dr Abhjit Vaidya and Bobby Ramakant.

Citizen News Service - CNS
April 2013

Published in:
Citizen News Service, India
Merinews, India
Elites TV, USA