Source: The Telegraph
New Delhi, Nov. 15: An Indian consortium of health activists has expressed concern that an American organisation representing large pharmaceutical corporations plans to meet Indian patent controllers and visit the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court next week.
The US-based Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA) has sought the meetings at a time Indian patent controllers and courts are hearing disputes over patents on medicines claimed by drug companies, the consortium campaigning for affordable medicines has said.
The planned meetings appear to be “blatant attempts to influence the judicial outcomes in cases relating to drug patent disputes currently before (Indian) courts”, the non-government consortium called the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab said in a letter sent to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court chief justice and to the chairperson of India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), Chennai.
A group of health activists and lawyers had established the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab in November 2012 to track patent claims in India over the drug called trastuzumab used in the treatment of breast cancer.
The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab said members of the IPOA currently have cases pending with the Intellectual Property Appellate Board or Delhi High Court on drugs used in the treatment of cancer and hepatitis-C virus infections.
A tentative schedule of the IPOA delegation, released by the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab, mentions a meeting with the intellectual property office in Chennai on November 17, a visit to the Supreme Court on November 19, and a meeting with Delhi High Court on November 21.
IPOA representatives were not immediately available for comment. However, the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab said it has been claimed that the meetings are being organised to “share experiences and perspectives on intellectual property and practice with patent practitioners and the judiciary of India”.
“We question the ethics and propriety of the (intended) meetings and interactions between the judiciary and the IPOA delegation which (consists) of representatives of pharmaceutical MNCs and the law firms that represent them in patent disputes before the IPAB and Indian courts,” the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab said in its letter.
It said this had been “implicitly recognised” by the former Supreme Court judge Dalveer Bhandari who had recused himself from a patent case involving the Swiss company Novartis, citing his participation in two of the International Judges Conferences organised by the IPOA.
“We’re outraged that the IPOA is seeking meetings with patent controllers and members of the judiciary,” said Kalyani Menon-Sen, a coordinator of the Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab and one of the three signatories on the letter sent to the chief justices and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.
The Swiss pharmaceutical firm Hoffman-La Roche had in August 2013 decided to give up its patent claim in India on trastuzumab after an intense campaign by patients’ groups and health activists urging the government to take steps to make the medicine affordable.
The company’s decision not to pursue its Indian patent on trastuzumab was expected to allow the production of inexpensive generic versions of the medicine which patients’ groups claim is being used in India by fewer than 10 per cent of the women who need it.
Although an Indian company has since released a less expensive version of the drug, the Campaign said, Roche now wants the more affordable version of the drug taken off the market on the ground that a package insert document of the competitor violated their copyright. This case is pending in Delhi High Court.