Indian pharma decries patents granted Pfizer, Novartis

The debate over patents in India continues. India has been struggling to bring its intellectual property laws up to a standard that will invite multinational companies to do business there. But public opinion is strongly in favor of domestic companies, putting Big Pharma in a tough spot. Drugmakers want to sell their branded drugs at a branded drug price--which might be lower in India than in, say, the U.S. But thanks to a strong local drugs business, Indians have enjoyed cheap meds for years.

The latest skirmish involves 81 drug patents granted over the first four years of India's new patent laws, 76 of which went to foreign pharma companies. One-third of them were divided among some of the top names in Big Pharma: Novartis, Eli Lilly and Pfizer.

The domestic industry now is questioning the validity of those patents, saying that they were issued in violation of two sections of the new law. These sections would deny patent protection to modified forms of long-ago-patented drugs and to new drugs that aren't a big leap forward. An industry lobby demanded a review of these patents, and now the drugs in question--and some other related data--have been made public by a government agency.

The disputed patents include one granted to Eli Lilly for a combination of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa (olanzipine) and the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine). Another, given to Novartis, covers a combo of blood pressure meds Norvasc (amlodipine) and Diovan (valsartan), with hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic.

The industry lobby is fighting hard against these patents, calling for that controversial section of Indian patent law known as 3(d) to be strictly enforced. But others, including the U.S.-India Business Council, are calling for 3(d) to be abolished. It's a hot-button issue on both sides, and the debate isn't close to being resolved.

- read the LiveMint piece