CIPLA’s plea for revocation of Novartis Patents for Onbrez may face major set back by the Government

As reported in TOI, the Indian Government has found very little merit in Cipla’s plea for waiver and cancellation of Patent rights for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drug over which Novartis has exclusive rights. We have reported on Cipla’s plea here.

Background:

Cipla, previously approached the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) to exercise its statutory powers under Section 66 and Section 92 (3) to revoke Indian Patents IN222346, IN230049, IN210047, IN230312 and IN214320 granted to Novartis AG for the drug Indacaterol and is currently selling under the brand name Onbrez. The said drug is one of the preferred medications for COPD.

The relevant sections 66 and 92 of the Indian Patents Act are as follows:

  1. Revocation under section 66:

Section 66 states “Where the Central Government is of opinion that a patent or the mode in which it is exercised is mischievous to the State or generally prejudicial to the public, it may, after giving the patentee an opportunity to be heard, make a declaration to that effect in the Official Gazette and thereupon the patent shall be deemed to be revoked”.

  1. Special provision for compulsory licences on notifications by Central Government

Section 92 (3) states Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (2), where the Controller is satisfied on consideration of the application referred to in clause (i) of sub-section (1) that it is necessary in—

(i) a circumstance of national emergency; or

(ii) a circumstance of extreme urgency; or

(iii) a case of public non-commercial use,

which may arise or is required, as the case may be, including public health crises, relating to Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, Human Immuno Deficiency Virus, tuberculosis, malaria or other epidemics, he shall not apply any procedure specified in section 87 in relation to that application for grant of licence under this section:

 Provided that the Controller shall, as soon as may be practicable, inform the patentee of the patent relating to the application for such non-application of section 87.”

Cipla’s Contention in the Representation:

  • Cipla argued that the causes of COPD are several and the sheer magnitude of the disease as per the publicly available data which is sufficient for the Central Government to invoke the provisions of Section 92 and to treat it as an “epidemic” or a “public health crisis”. Such exercise of power in the present case would be in consonance with the avowed purpose for which Section 92 has been enacted.
  • Cipla also contended that Novartis has been granted these patents since 2008-09 but has chosen not to manufacture the same in India. However, Novartis merely imports a negligible quantity of these products manufactured in Switzerland through its licensee Lupin Pharma as per its own data filed before the Patent office. As submitted by Novartis in IPO in Form 27, the import for the year 2013 is a meagre 53,844 units which do not satisfy even 4,500 patients annually which is a shortage is more than 99.97 percent.
  • Further Cipla contended that cost of the drug is also very high for a patient in India. The estimated cost of the drug Indacaterol as imported and sold by Lupin Limited, under the trademark Onbrez is about Rs.2000/- per month per patient. On the contrary, the proposed drug of Cipla under name UNIBREZ would be costing approximately Rs. 400 per month.

 It is pertinent to note that Section 66 has been invoked only on two occasions earlier. Firstly it was invoked for the case of a process patent granted to Agracetus, an American company for genetically engineered cotton cell lines. The said patent was revoked by the Central Government in the year 1994 keeping in mind public interest and the fact that genetically engineered cotton, being a product of concern for the national economy, particularly for agriculturists, ought not to be the subject matter of a patent monopoly. Secondly in 2012, a patent granted to Avesthagan Limited for a “synergistic ayurvedic/ functional food bioactive composition” i.e. the composition consisting of Jamun, Lavangpatti and Chandan to be used for treatment of Diabetes. In light of the public interest in using traditional knowledge for curing and treating Diabetes, the said patent was also revoked under Section 66 of the Act. However pertinently, both the patents were revoked due to cloud over patentable subject matter.

It would be prejudiced to comment on the fate of the matter at this stage. However as per TOI the Govt. may turn down the plea of Cipla for revocation of Novartis patent.

About the Author: Mr Sitanshu Singh, Patent Associate, Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at: sitanshu@khuranaandkhurana.com

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