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India’s Supreme Court Ruling On Drug Patent Will Promote Affordable Medicines, ‘Preserve’ Innovation Incentives

Noting that India’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled that drug maker Novartis “should not be given a patent for a cancer drug because it was too similar to Novartis’s earlier version,” a New York Times editorial writes, “The decision, which is the culmination of a high-profile, seven-year legal battle, should help protect the availability of cheap generic drugs for poor patients.” The editorial describes the history of the drug’s development and the case, saying, “This case is unique because it concerns an innovative and useful drug whose creation happened to straddle [a] change in Indian patent law,” when “India decided to prevent drug companies from getting monopoly protection on updated drugs that did not represent a major advance over previous versions — a practice often referred to as ‘evergreening.'” The New York Times concludes, “The ruling is important, nonetheless, because it establishes a limited precedent that requires drug companies to show real improvements in efficacy before they can get patent protection on updates to existing drugs in India. That could help poor patients get drugs at prices they can afford while preserving an incentive for true innovation” (4/4).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.