Affordable generic medicine for an AIDS or cancer patient in the developing world can mean life or death. Unfortunately, drug giant Novartis is suing to stop the sale of more affordable generic medicine and deny those suffering from treatable diseases the medicine they rely on. If they are successful, the cost of treatments will skyrocket out of reach for the majority of people in the developing world who rely on generic medicine.
India is one of the few developing countries with the production capacity to manufacture quality-assured generic medicines, but Novartis is trying to stop their production. They’ve taken their case to the Indian Supreme Court, and if Novartis wins, it could mean millions of lives at stake around the world.
As the case now opens before the Indian Supreme Court, join Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and tell Novartis that people matter more than profits.
Granting a patent on a medicine provides the patent holder with a monopoly on that medicine, which in turn allows the company to charge a high price in the absence of any generic competition. In fact, improving access to medicines requires making it not just available, but affordable for patients and governments to buy.
When AIDS treatments first became available in the late 1990s, the price of first line patented AIDS medicines was - even after discounts - US$10,439 per patient per year. Millions died in developing countries, particularly in Africa, as prices were too high. Generic competition brought prices down, making treatment possible.
Patents on medicines are a key barrier to making medicines affordable, as it prevents access to those who cannot afford it. It is only with unfettered generic competition that medicine prices are driven to a sustainable level.
This case is not only about this particular medicine, and it's not just about India. MSF buys 80% of the antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) it uses to treat 170,000 people for HIV across the developing world from Indian generic manufacturers.
On behalf of the millions of lives at stake across the world, I urge Novartis to put patients before profits and abandon its efforts to patent mesylate salt of Imatinib.