NEW DELHI: Bringing huge relief to cancer and kidney patients in India, the government on Monday allowed Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma to manufacture and sell cancer-treatment drug Nexavar at a price over 30 times lower than charged by its patent-holder and German multinational Bayer Corporation under Section 84 of the Indian Patent Act.
The order was issued by India Patents Office as a 'Compulsory Licence' under the Indian Patent Act, which is in compliance with the TRIPS agreement of the World Trade Organisation.
Nexavar is a drug used to treat liver and kidney cancer and sells at Rs 2.84 lakh for a pack of 120 tablets. The medicine could now be made available to patients at a price not exceeding Rs 8,880 for 120 tablets.
However, the move by the government has upset the German company.
"We are disappointed by the decision of the Patent Controller in India to grant a compulsory license for Nexavar. We will evaluate our options to further defend our intellectual property rights in India," Bayer said in a statement.
In his order, Controller of Patents PH Kurian said the move followed Bayer not doing enough to scale up the sale of the drug despite getting patent for it in India in 2008.
Explaining, the order said: "The patentee (Bayer) did not import the drug at all in 2008 and imported in small quantities in 2009 and 2010."
As per WTO agreement, a compulsory license can be invoked by a national government allowing someone else to produce a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner. It is done for the cause of public health.
Kurian said: "I do not also see any prompt action in the part of the patentee to start the working of the invention in the territory of India on a commercial scale and to an adequate extent."
Commenting on the development, Natco Pharma said: "Natco welcomes this order and opines that this opens up a new avenue of availability of life saving drugs at an affordable price to the suffering masses in India."
(With additional information from PTI)