Pharma giants arm-twist U.S. government for IP action in India

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Big Pharma wants the U.S. to pull a big-gorilla act in India. With patents revoked and cheap generics foisted on them ahead of schedule--and more early copycats possibly on their way--multinational drugmakers are lobbying for an intervention.

Indian officials have been weighing plans to issue more compulsory licenses, which allow domestic generics makers to copy drugs that are still on patent and sell those copies at a fraction of the branded price. Seen as a humanitarian measure by some and a protectionist move by others, the practice is certainly anathema to Big Pharma companies counting on emerging markets like India to fuel new growth.

Already, Bayer faces copycat versions of its cancer drug Nexavar, made by domestic drugmaker Natco Pharma. Natco petitioned the government for a compulsory license and won, and since has asked authorities for similar rights to other cancer meds. The Indian government has also flagged other cancer drugs, including Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Sprycel and Ixempra, for potential compulsory licenses.

Foreign drugmakers have been quite vocal in their protests, and government trade reps have lodged their own complaints. But India has continued to pull already-granted patents--such as Roche's ($RHHBY) hepatitis C drug Pegasys and, more recently, Allergan's ($AGN) eye drug Restasis--and mull new moves. Now, the U.S.-based trade group PhRMA is among those looking to Washington for stronger action.

"The multinational companies are exploring all options--from paring their investments in the country to forcing the U.S. to take some actions," an Indian source told Reuters. "Companies feel something should be done at the earliest to check the violations of their intellectual property in the country. They want government-to-government pressure to change things."

PhRMA is working on a formal report for U.S. trade officials that will urge them to fight the IP moves. "[T]his year, they really want to ratchet up the pressure on India," an executive at a major drug company told the news service.

- read the Reuters news

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