Swiss Multinational Pharmacuetical company Novartis is continuing its tradition of suing developing country governments for their pro-health patent laws. In 1999, Novartis along with other pharmaceutical companies sued the South African government over pro-health amendments in their patent law.
Since 2006, they have been suing the Indian government over the health safeguards (Section 3d) in its patentlaw. India supplies generic medicines across the developing world and health and PLHIV groups in India have been using Section 3(d) of the Indian law toensure that key medicines stay off-patent. Novartis did not get a patent inIndia on a cancer medicine and wants this law (Section 3d) weakened. BUT THIS WILL IMPACT ALL OTHER GENERIC MEDICINES AS WELL.
Novartis is suing the Indian government and cancer patients. It lost its first case in a lower court in India. Now it’s before the Indian Supreme Court.
On the 28th of February 2012, the Indian Supreme Court will hear the Novartis case.
Read about the case in the Background below.
48 Hours of Action: 22-23 February, 2012
On 23 February, a few days before the hearing in the Indian Supreme Court, Novartis’ shareholders are meeting in Basel at their Annual General Meeting (AGM). In 2011, Novartis recorded more than $54 billion in sales and is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in profits. While its profits are still increasing, the firm is suing the government of India.
As our friends in India gear up to fightthis legal battle, groups around the world will be demonstrating on 22 and 23 February 2012 to coincide with the day of the Novartis AGM to send Novartis a clear message:
THE ATTACK ON THE INDIAN LAW AND ON GENERIC MEDICINES MUST STOP NOW!
JOIN US! WHAT can YOU DO?
· RECORD IT: Send us a 30 second to 1 minute video–if possible holding a visual/poster against Novartis. Record your message to Novartis or explain the consequences of the Novartis case for your life and for access to medicines in your country. Your video will be streamed on the ACTUP Basel website and will be used in demonstrations on the 22nd and 23rd of February.
§ Please send the video to: email@example.com by 21 February; Tips: Record your video from your cell-phone or camera, upload it andemail it to us!
§ If you have skype, write to us and we can help you record your message. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your skype name if you are interested.
· CLICK IT: If you cannot make a video, send us your photo with your message for Novartis. (please send the photo and message to:email@example.com)
· SIGN IT: Avaaz is aiming to get 100,000 signatures on the Novartis Case. Sign here and get everyone you know to sign too:http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_novartis_in_india/?copy
· TWEET IT : Join the MSF campaign and tweet your message using #STOPnovartis or take action here http://www.msfaccess.org/STOPnovartis/
· WALK IT: If there is a Novartis Office in your country, organise your own demonstrations and send them your own message.http://www.novartis.com/about-novartis/locations/worldwide-offices.shtml
· TALK IT: Even though you might not be able to support the demonstrations you can help us by spreading the word about the Novartis case. Write an editorial in your local paper. Hold a press conference. Issue a press release or press statement.
· SHARE IT: PLEASE send us photos, articles, videos of all your actions immediately (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and FOLLOW the actions of other groups here :
· WATCH IT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tzVw6koE1o&feature=related (English)
· READ IT: Read about the Novartis and its US/EU surrogates triple punch to Indian genericshere http://www.actupbasel.org/actupbasel/?Novartis-Big-Pharma-and-their-US. More resources at the end of this alert.
What is the Novartis case in India about?
Novartis patented the molecule imatinib in 1993. After the signing of the WTO TRIPS agreement by India in 1995, Novartis filed another patent application on the mesylate salt form of imatinib in 1998 at the Indian patent office. In 2005 India amended its patent law to comply with the WTO TRIPS agreement but also included Section 3(d) an important health safeguard thatdoes not allow companies to get patents on new forms of old medicines. Novartis’ application was rejected by the Indian patent office on several grounds including that the application claimed a new form of an already existing medicine. The company then sued the Indian Government, cancer patients and several generic companies in order to get its patent monopoly on imatinib mesylate and wanted Section 3(d) knocked out of the patent law.
When it failed to do this in a lower court, it has now gone to the Indian Supreme Court to try and change the interpretation of Section 3(d). In essence, Novartis wants section 3(d), which requires stringent evidence of proof of significantly enhanced therapeutic efficacy if a modification of an existing pharmaceutical entity is to receive new patent protection, to be reinterpreted to allow routine “ever-greening” of minor modifications to existing medicines resulting in additional 20-year patent monopolies.
Novartis: $2500 per person per month
Generics: $200 per person per month
What if Novartis wins this case?
If Novartis wins this case, the ability of India to produce cheap generic medicines will be severely affected as it will set a precedent for all future patent applications. India is known as the ‘Pharmacy of the developing world’ for producing and supplying affordable generic drugs to more than 150 developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In particular, India supplies nearly 80% of the medicines used to treat over seven million people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries. India’s capacity to provide affordable drugs across all disease categories can be seriously undermined by victory of Novartis in this court case.
Novartis through its press statements, continues to assert that access to medicines is not impacted by the granting of patent for a new medicine. The company stresses that it is simply about availability of medicines not affordability. But they are wrong. In the ordinary course of events, obtaining a patent gives the right holder authority to exclude others from making the patented product or using a patented process. That right toexclude in turns gives rise to monopoly pricing power, especially in the pharmaceutical contexts. Big Pharma companies price their medicines at exorbitant rates catering only to elite group to make more profits instead of selling larger quantities at lower prices that poor people and poor countries might afford. In economic jargon, these excluded patients are called a dead-weight cost – in the real world, they are merely called dead.