Monday January 29 2007
Student Global AIDS Campaign
Global AIDS Alliance
Stop HIV/AIDS in India Initiative
American Medical Students Association
NOVARTIS' INDIA PATENT LAWSUIT COULD THREATEN ACCESS TO LIFESAVING MEDICINES -
AIDS ACTIVISTS PRESENT "GOLDEN COFFIN" AWARD TO NOVARTIS CEO
(Washington D.C.) AIDS activists presented a "Golden Coffin" award endorsed by civil society groups from around the world to representatives of Novartis, a pharmaceutical company suing the Indian government. Novartis' lawsuit was triggered by India's decision not to grant a patent to Novartis on a medicine for life threatening cancer, imatinib mesylate (trade name Gleevec). Groups from around the world are calling on Novartis to drop this court case; the most recent hearing of the case began in India at the Chennai High Court January 29, 2007.
The implications of the case are much broader than one drug or one condition; India's ability to manufacture low cost generic versions of newer medicines will be threatened if Novartis prevails in this case, according to the activists. Generic Indian antiretrovirals are used for about half of all HIV treatment in poor countries. "People with HIV around the world depend on India for generic equivalents of antiretrovirals," said Asia Russell of Health GAP. "Novartis' wrongheaded court case in India could jeopardize sustainable access for countless numbers of poor people, particularly in sub Saharan Africa, where imported generic medicines are saving lives."
India changed its Patents Act in 2005 to meet its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization, and began granting patents for pharmaceuticals. But the government defined the scope of patentability in India so as to ensure that medicines that were not innovative, were not granted patents. "Novartis is pressuring India to eliminate a perfectly legal public health safeguard. If Novartis succeeds, drug prices will rise, and people will suffer greatly," said Vineeta Gupta of SHAII (Stop HIV/AIDS in India Initiative). "Novartis should be ashamed."
"The greed and indifference of [Novartis CEO] Daniel Vasella is astonishing," said Anuja Singh of the Student Global AIDS Campaign. "India should be congratulated for prioritizing public health and access to medicines--not slapped with a court case."
Contact for more information:
Asia Russell (267) 475-2645 / firstname.lastname@example.org
David Bryden (202) 549-3664 / email@example.com
Matthew Kavanagh (202) 486-2488 / firstname.lastname@example.org