The final judgment from the eagerly-anticipated court case that involves Novartis' legal challenge against India's patent laws has been put back once again.
The Swiss major's long-running case against the Government of India centres around the country's patent law, notably Section 3(d), which states that a modification of a known chemical composition is non-patentable. Novartis' legal action stems from an attempt to obtain an Indian patent on Gleevec/Glivec (imatinib mesylate), its drug for chronic myeloid leukaemia and other cancers, which was denied by India's Patent Office in 2006.
India’s Supreme Court was scheduled to start the final hearing of the case on March 28, a month later than originally expected. However, final arguments were then re-scheduled for July 10 but that has been postponed again to August 22.
The postponement is due to a request from lawyers representing Novartis that the hearings be adjourned because of the unavailability of their main counsel. The request was granted by the bench.
The case is very high-profile and Novartis has come under pressure to drop it, not least from international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). The latter claims that should Novartis win, "patents would be granted far more broadly in India, blocking the competition among multiple producers that drives prices down".
This would have the effect of "restricting access to affordable medicines for millions in India and across the developing world", MSF argues. Novartis vehemently denies such claims and in March told PharmaTimes World News "we believe that working through the judicial system is the legitimate and appropriate approach to gaining clarity on the unique aspects of India’s patent law".