Did India beat Big Pharma in drug patents war? | 


Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna

The Guardian asks:  Did India beat Big Pharma in the patent wars?:

“Two recent court cases in India may have changed the rules of the game. On 1 April, pharma giant Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the Indian supreme court ruled that small changes to its leukaemia drug Glivec did not deserve a new patent…. (O)nly one month before, India upheld a compulsory licence of Bayer’s cancer drug Nexavar, effectively allowing generics firms to copy a patented drug, reportedly bringing the price down from more than $5,500 (£3,540) per month to $175 (£112). Both rulings are landmark cases, vehemently criticised by both Big Pharma and major drugs-producing countries.”

So, this author asks, has India won the patent war with Big Pharma?

Answer: Not really. Continue reading

Drug industry loses in India – fight over ‘patents vs poor’ to continue | 

green pills
Flickr, sparktography

The Indian Supreme Court has rejected a drug patent application by the international pharmaceutical firm Novartis, an event that merited coverage by the New York Times, BBC and many other media – news which you might think is mostly a matter for the business page or drug industry insiders.

In fact, the case may represent one of the most difficult dilemmas in global health. It is a fight that is far from over.

The Indian high court’s legal resolution (or perhaps ‘latest phase’) of this long-running battle between the Indian government and Novartis, as I wrote about last October in a post called Patents vs the Poor, is regarded on all sides as representing much more than what Novartis can charge for the particular cancer drug, Gleevec (or Glivec), at issue.

What’s at stake is one of global health’s most difficult balancing acts – how to expand access of life-saving medicines to the poor while also protecting the legitimate interests of the drug industry when it comes to patent protection and intellectual property. The high court’s decision is being reported as a victory of the generic drug industry, which is big in India, over Western drug makers. As the New York Times put it:

On the one hand, it will help maintain India’s role as the world’s most important provider of cheap medicines, which is critical in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases…. On the other hand, the ruling could cost lives in the future. Drug company executives and others argue that India’s failure to grant patents for critical medicines …  is a shortsighted strategy that undermines a vital system for funding new discoveries.

That’s what Novartis’ head of corporate research, Paul Herrling, told me:

Paul Herrling
Paul Herrling

“If a breakthrough compound like this cannot be patented in India, that has major consequences for innovation in India and elsewhere,” said Paul Herrling. “This isn’t really about Gleevec … This is just one part of a much larger issue.” Continue reading

Nathan Myhrvold: Patent Troll, Inventor and now Global Do-Gooder | 

When folks talk about Nathan Myhrvold, they seldom use muted terms.

Tom Paulson

Nathan Myhrvold, speaking at Social Innovations Fast Pitch 2012

The former chief technologist for Microsoft is a close associate of Bill Gates and now CEO of a business, Intellectual Ventures, which some say holds more patents (about 40,000) than any other company in the United States.

I wanted to talk to Myhrvold about his recent ventures into philanthropy, into humanitarianism, which his firm has dubbed its “Global Good” project.

But first, I should disclose that I once worked for Nathan as one of a number of assisting writers on his mega-cookbook Modernist Cuisine. I helped write the meat chapter. (We sometimes argued over the words. He was difficult, I would say. He might say the same about me. But I think we’re all happy with the book.)

I should also note Myhrvold is frequently accused of being a patent troll — meaning he and his firm buy up patents and then use them to, uh, encourage (some use different words) other companies to pay them royalties or licensing fees. Here’s one such recent news post on GigaOm that talks about the Bellevue-based firm “bleeding billions from creative companies” using threats of litigation and disguised “shell companies.”

The writer goes on to say Myhrvold runs a ‘dark empire’ that stalks its victims! Is this Lord of the Rings or something? Like I said, he does tend to provoke strong feelings.

Myhrvold also provokes strong praise. He is frequently described as a master inventor in his own right, a brilliant polymath, an accomplished paleontologist (as this New Yorker profile noted) and, of course, a gourmet chef.

But the Nathan Myhrvold I’m most interested in is a fairly new one — Nathan the humanitarian technologist. Continue reading

Bridging the gap between industry and those fighting diseases of poverty | 

A new global initiative launched this week in Geneva aimed at combating neglected diseases in poor countries by getting drug companies to share their patents and discoveries can be credited in large part to one Seattle woman’s religious upbringing.

But probably not in the way you think.

Tom Paulson

Melinda Moree and colleague Don Joseph at work in Seattle's Caffe Fiore

“I grew up in a very religious household, with rabid ideology,” said Melinda Moree. “So I do everything I can to make sure any discussion I’m involved in is not driven by ideology but by a pragmatic focus on problem-solving.”

Moree, who I caught up with recently at a coffee shop on Queen Anne, is chief executive officer of BIO Ventures for Global Health. Yes, it’s a fairly boring name but what they do, which I’ll get to in a bit, is quite exciting with the potential for transforming biomedical research and saving millions of lives.

The ideology Moree is currently working against is not rabid religiosity but an ideological rift that she thinks prevents progress in global health. Namely, the ideological gap between the public sector or humanitarian organizations and the profit-seeking drug and biomedical industry.

“There’s been an especially rocky relationship between the private sector and public sector over intellectual property,” she said.

Activists contend patents protect drug company profits at the expense of the lives of the poor. The drug industry, in turn, say activists and humanitarian organizations simply don’t understand that drugs and vaccines don’t just appear by magic. Continue reading