SC again asks Novartis to cut cancer drug price

Last Updated : 12 September 2012, 15:19 IST
Last Updated : 12 September 2012, 15:19 IST

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The Supreme Court Wednesday once again asked pharma company  Novartis to scale down the price of its cancer drug Glivec, made from compound imatinib mesylate.

The court suggested the price cut saying that the company's scheme for providing the drug free to poor patients was complicated.

The court said Tuesday: "Rs.1.2 lakh per month is too high to afford a treatment."
Glivec is the trade name of chemical beta crystalline form of imatinib mesylate compound which is used for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

An apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai told Novartis counsel Gopal Subramanium Wednesday that its proposal on poor patients was a "complicated scheme for identifying those who are entitled to be given (free medicine) and those who can afford paying 80 days of annual cost of Glivec".

Justice Alam said that the end result of the any commercial venture was profit or loss and what mattered was "rupaiya, aana and paisa", thereby, telling that whatever scheme for poor it might have, at the end of the day, Novartis' business transactions meant financial results.

The court said this when Subramanium submitted an undertaking by Novartis stating that if it was granted patent for Glivec then it would continue its programme of providing free of cost or subsidised Glivec to the eligible patients.

Novartis filed the affidavit in pursuance to a query by the court Tuesday whether the pharma company would continue with its scheme of providing free or subsidised medicine to poor and needy patients if it was granted patent of Glivec.

The court's query was in context of its observation that Novartis had no legal obligation of providing subsidised or free Glivec to the needy patients.

The court Tuesday asked Novartis to earn the goodwill of the people and establish its bonafides by reducing the medicine's price.

Novartis affidavit said: "In the event of patent being granted to petitioner, Novartis in India, undertakes to continue this programme till July 2018 and subject to there being no further regulatory price control/direction in relation to said (Glivec) product."

Novartis told the court that there were about 41,794 CML patients in India, out of which 15,690 were being treated by Glivec.

Of the 15,690 patients, 15,155 patients received Glivec free of cost, 370 patients were availing a discount plan and only 165 patients were paying the maximum amount, which was equal to 80 days of annual treatment.

Published 12 September 2012, 15:19 IST

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