Letter from Novartis to Members of the European Parliament

2 March 2007

Dear xxxxx (member of the European parliament)

A group of MEPs has tabled a Written Declaration seeking actions from the EU institutions to persuade Novartis to drop its legal action against the Indian Government regarding the patentability of its beakthrough cancer treatment, Glivec. Their central arguments is that our actions would deny access to medicines to the poor. This is fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.

We would like to request you not to sign this Written Declaration for the following reasons:

  • The legal case does not concern access to medicines. On the contrary, 99% of the Indian patients who take Glivec (circa 6,600 patients in total) receive it from Novartis for free. Worldwide, Novartis is donating Glivec at no cost to approximately 19,000 patients in 80 countries.

  • Our legal action in India does not undermine the provision that allow access to medicines. Novartis only challenges those provisions of Indian Patent Law which are not currently in compliance with international law. Novartis fully supports the TRIPs conditions that promote access to medicines for developing countries and the Doha declaration.

  • Our legal case has no impact on pending patent applications for new HIV treatments. Most new HIV treatments are now compounds, thus falling completely outside the scope of the current dispute.

  • The case also concerns the conflicting interests of Indian generic manufacturers and the innovative pharmaceutical industry. Indian generic manufacturers target the middle income populations but not the "real poor". In India, the generic version of Glivec costs 4.5 times the average annual income.

  • A strong patent law is in the interest of India. One third of pending patent applications for pharmaceuticals comes from Indian pharmaceutical firms. Indian companies have a strong interest in having patents for incremental innovations and they have publicly supported our case.

  • Novartis contests strongly that our case undermines the supply of affordable medicines to the developing world. Indian generic companies focus on the developed world and India; only 8% of their sales goes to the developing world outside India. By contrast, the innovative pharmaceutical industry treats 716,000 HIV patients in the developing world.

  • Novartis is deeply concerned that patients have access to medicines. In 2006, our access to medicines program reached 33.6 million patients. Novartis spent USD 755 million last year alone. Public private partnerships can play an important part. Novartis is committed to explore the issue of access to medicines. But, any solution must be sustainable. Generics and the demise of the patent system is not a viable solution in the long term.

  • As the world’s second largest manufacturer of generic medicines, Novartis understands and recognizes the contribution of generics once drug patents expire; our concern is with the non-recognition of intellectual property rights that ultimately advance pharmaceutical research and development for better medicines so that patients needs will be met in the future.

We attach a position paper which explain these issues in more detail.


Meni Styliadou,
Head of European Public Affairs, a.i

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