Cancer in India is growing fast and drugs aren’t there. Ninety percent of children with leukemia in high-income countries will be cured, but 90 percent of those with that disease in low-income countries will die from it. The drugs are being developed by the companies in the West and these companies, using the reasons that they spent millions developing the drug – charge exorbitant prices. Prices that Indian consumers cannot pay. Nor of other developing countries. India – more importantly, Indian courts – has put its foot down on granting unbridled licence to these companies for patents. Patents are an issue, and they are being strongly controlled – at least in India.
The current case of Novartis patent case for its leukemia drug, Gleevec is very instructive. It has far reaching implications. For right now, the case decision means Gleevec costs $70,000 per year in the United States, but just $2,500 in India.
This seems to be the strategy of the Indian Government and the courts.
Last year, India issued a compulsory license on Nexavar, a late-stage kidney and liver cancer treatment, enabling a local drug firm to produce a generic version of this medicine without the permission of Bayer, the patent holder. India has recently announced plans to grant compulsory licenses on another leukemia drug and two breast cancer therapies.
Obviously the drug companies – use to gouging from the Western patients – aren’t excited about this. But then India is too big a market to ignore. So is China and other developing nations. And other developing nations are following suit.
India is not alone. Indonesia recently issued a compulsory license for a treatment for liver cancer-causing hepatitis B. China and the Philippines amended their pharmaceutical patent laws, making it easier for those governments to take similar measures as India.
What the experts in US are beginning to say, the Indian system is set to obviate. Everyone knows that combination of Drug Companies and the Insurance Companies has created a hell like situation for the medical scenario and patients in the US. There should be a pay back for the scientists developing new drugs surely, but what the drug companies charge is often exorbitant. It is not a pay back for the scientific work, but a pay back for the every hyper investors on the Stock Exchange, who want Month-over-Month returns.
The question that these drug companies ought to ask is how long will the American patients pay 20 times the price that the Indian patients pay for the same drug?? With Medical Tourism growing, they just may not. In fact they may as well lobby the Indian Government and courts to carry on their good work – since the American system is already too bought out anyway!