India Disapproves Anti-AIDS Drug Plea
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21 June 2008
New Delhi, India
By Rupali Mukherjee
In a landmark judgment which will benefit HIV patients, Indian Patent Office on Thursday rejected a patent application filed by Boehringer Ingelheim on paediatric form of anti–AIDS drug nevirapine.
The company was trying to claim a patent on the syrup form of nevirapine, which is important for children suffering from HIV who are unable to swallow tablets. This is the first decision from the Patent Office on the 13 patent oppositions filed by public health groups against AIDS drugs, and will set an important precedent for the pending patent applications, industry expert pointed out.
If the patent had been granted, price would have increased for children suffering from AIDS. In May 2006, the Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (INP+) and the Positive Women’s Network (PWN) had filed a pregrant opposition against the company’s application.
“We opposed the patent application on nevirapine hemihydrate (syrup) to ensure that it remains available for our children and to make sure that the government doesnt say it is too expensive to provide,” said, P Kousalya, president of PWN. Nevirapine is an important anti–retroviral drug, invented in 1989, and was not patentable in India. “Accessing appropriate paediatric formulations of AIDS drugs has been a particular problem around the world, and we hope that this decision can be a step towards making them more available,” she added.
The Indian Patents Act contains some safeguards designed to ensure that “frivolous patent applications are not granted at the cost of public health.”