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Times of India
25 April 2009
New Delhi, India

HC Scraps Roche’s Plea
Allows Cipla To Manufacture, Sell Generic Version Of Cancer Drug
Access to Cheaper Drug
In a ruling that might spell relief for lakhs of lung cancer patients, the Delhi High Court on Friday allowed Cipla to manufacture and sell the generic version of lung cancer drug ‘Erlotinib’ of Swiss pharma firm Hoffman La Roche Ltd.

Vacating its previous stay order on the generic manufacturer, a division bench also removed all restraints on Cipla, while exporting the life saving drug to other countries in which La Roche has patent rights. The court dismissed the plea of the Swiss company and also imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh on it.

The move is a big relief to cancer patients who depend on generic versions of the drug, which is priced much lower than the patented drug. Cancer drugs are one of the most expensive treatments and the order would improve the accessibility of the drug to lung cancer patients. Cipla had launched its generic version Erlocip in December 2007 at a price of Rs 1,700 per tablet as against Roche’s price of over Rs 4,000 per pill.

HC dismissed the plea of the Swiss company, which argued that the Indian company should be restrained from manufacturing and selling the generic drug till the issue of patent rights was decided through litigation. The Swiss company had approached the division bench of the High Court after a single bench had dismissed its plea to restrain Cipla.

The bench also said that public interest was predominant and it required that patients get access to cheap cancer medicines in the country. Advocate Pratibha Singh, appearing for Cipla, pleaded that the company should not be restrained from manufacturing the life saving drug at cheaper price.

The court also vacated its interim order which restrained Indian company from exporting the generic version of the drug to other countries. The Swiss company had approached the court after it found that Cipla was about to launch the generic version of the drug under the brand name ‘Tarceva’. Roche had got patent rights for the drug in February 2007.

In addition, the decision also laid down that the courts should follow a rule of caution, and not always presume that patents were valid, legal experts said. They added that an earlier verdict, which granted patent right to pharma MNC Novartis for another cancer drug, blocking the generic version, was disastrous for patients as the patent was overturned only three years later. This had blocked the supply of generic version and access to affordable treatment was denied.

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