Pfizer, Novartis & Eli Lilly Received A Bunch Of Illegal Pharma Patents In India

from the jacking-up-the-price-on-known-medicines dept

As you may or may not know, India only recently changed its patent laws (under sever pressure from foreign countries and pharmaceutical companies) to allow pharmaceutical patents. Before that, pharmaceuticals (for the most part) were unpatentable there. Of course, contrary to what patent system supporters would tell you, India had a thriving pharma industry. Yes, a lot of it was in generic drugs, but according to patent system supporters if people can just copy each other, no one will even bother to get into that business. Reality shows that wasn’t true. But, of course, the big pharma companies were quite upset by all of this, and got their governments to put pressure on India to “join the world community.” In 2005, India’s new patent laws went into effect, and while the results of all of this are still being analyzed, one thing that politicians smartly put into the law were sections 3(d) and (e), “which restrict protection being granted to already known and long-ago patented drugs and their combinations.” This upset pharma industry sympathisers, but it’s hard to fathom who could reasonably be against such a rule. You simply should not be able to patent things that are already known or patent the simple combinations of drugs that are already known. This is just common sense to prevent pharmaceutical firms from getting monopolies on drugs already out there.

However, Jamie Love points us to the news of a new report that found that the Indian patent office has gone against this law and issued such patents quite frequently and, no surprise, the main recipients are among the world’s largest pharma companies, including Pfizer, Novartis and Eli Lilly. Is it any wonder that they’ve all been pushing to dump sections 3(d) and (e) all along? Remember, pharma patents are not about drug discovery, but about jacking up the prices on drugs.

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Companies: eli lilly, novartis, pfizer

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Comments on “Pfizer, Novartis & Eli Lilly Received A Bunch Of Illegal Pharma Patents In India”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“Remember, pharma patents are not about drug discovery, but about jacking up the prices on drugs.”

This does seem a bit over the top given much of the work product that has come out of Pharma R&D labs and ultimately introduced as pharmaceuticals useful for the treatment of all manner of medical conditions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What kind of proof you need? You’re sceptical that drug development cost money?
Well, we can always go Chinese way and test new drugs on prisoners, without paying them. Tough luck, if some will die.
Would you like that? Till then, you can
a) Pray that you won’t get seriously sick;
b) as somebody suggested – use yoga (they say it’s very effective for all kind of cancers)
c) Swallow the fact that you have to spend hundreds of millions to run clinical trials in the format required by FDA.

And for the record – India hasn’t produced any single new drug. Only copycats from condemned (here) blockbusters.

China did indeed developed a new antimalaria drug. Using approach mentioned above. And one thing – they are superprotective about this invention.

Kudos. It’s always fun to see the arguments of ignorant; isn’t it better to stick to something you’re competent in? Like technology?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“India hasn’t produced any single new drug.”

India makes new drugs every day, though, of course, most, if not all, are generics rolling off the production lines.

Interestingly, I have read several articles discussing the 2005 change to India patent law extending patent protection to formulations per se (as opposed to the prior law that I understand was limited to methods for making such formulations).

Each of the articles mentioned the same talking points. With formulations now subject to patent protection, India is reorienting its pharma industry to begin engaging in pharma R&D to create new formulations, as well as to promote the capability of the industry to serve as a source for contract R&D and contract manufacture.

Perhaps I am naive, but it does sound to me as if India is being encouraged to shift course and begin developing a pharma industry that can stand on its own in the world market and ultimately compete with the current industry leaders.

DoxAvg says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think you’re doing your argument a big favor here. The AC’s implication is that without patent protection for drugs, no investment will be made (and, by extension, discoveries made) in new drugs. Your response is to point to the patent-free advancements in spiritual pseudo-science which generally decries the use of drugs.

You can make the argument that you don’t need monopoly profits on drugs for people to continue inventing new ones, but this sure ain’t it.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

“Blockbuster” drugs that save lives…like Viagra?

Or the statins, which are supposed to let us eat like pigs and still not die of heart disease? (BTW, what are the studies saying about the effectiveness of statins…?)

Hm…do we have any blockbuster drugs that treat malaria? Oh, I forgot, it’s hard to market an anti-malarial drug because most of the folks who get malaria are poor.

So…how much of the price of our drugs goes into marketing vs R&D?

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, the article was about the drug industy, as was my comment. If people stopped smoking and exercised (which would be part of Ayurveda) that would make them healthier too, but that wasn’t the point.

So, the article did state “India had a thriving pharma industry. Yes, a lot of it was in generic drugs, but according to patent system supporters if people can just copy each other, no one will even bother to get into that business. Reality shows that wasn’t true.”

So where is the reality? What great drug was developed by India? Name one that came out of this thriving pharma industry in India. Just one, or do we have to go back to Yoga and maybe funny dancing.

Reason2Bitch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You are confused between yoga and ayurveda. Ayurveda system has drugs and surgery (one example is use of turmeric which was traditionally known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Go search USPTO for turmeric and you will find about 800 patents which are basically hashes of these basic properties. See for more info.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Yoga is spiritual exercise and is in fact part of Ayurveda. Ayurveda focuses on the balance of life and yoga is one way to attain balance.

So I guess no one has any examples of any drug being developed in India over the past say 20 years? It doesn’t have to be patented, because India didn’t do those till recently. Just anything that is currently being sold. Just one? I didn’t think so. What India has been really good at is producing generic drugs. While this is a good thing, it is only one (but important) part of the pharmaceutical industry.

I love generic companies, but by definition, they don’t do research and produce new drugs.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The point you seem to be missing is that the existing system encourages pharma companies to develop drugs they can patent not drugs that make you healthier. An excellent point on this was made by DH on an earlier thread Institutions Will Seek To Preserve The Problem For Which They Are The Solution, it seemed to be almost kidding but the essence remains. Pharma patents are not just about research & development, they are a major factor in driving up the prices on prescription drugs. Just look what happens to those prices when generics become available, they drop like a rock. Stronger patent legislation also drove out smaller companies in favor of few large companies. By holding a dominant position throughout the world these mega-corps influence the governments to give them more, and more PROFIT -not- healthier people.

How is that the greater good?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I love generic companies, but by definition, they don’t do research and produce new drugs.”

Yeah, so? Doesn’t mean that patents lead to the development of new drugs.

and the fact is that new drugs are produced from changing existing drugs with or without patents, the only difference is that with a patent system they call a variation of an old drug a new drug simply to get a patent on it. Take the anti – Aids drug created by India. If it were up to our patent system that “new” drug, simply a variation of previous drugs, would be patented and then IP maximists would claim that no such developments could occur without patents. Of course they could, it’s just that we take them for granted without patents, but in the case of patents we consider any patent on any existing drug or variation of an existing drug to be new and patent worthy and IP maximists claim they will not be developed without patents (when the reality is that patents only slow down their development because companies can claim that a variation is too similar to their patented version and so is covered, but when the patent expires the company will then make a slight variation that another company could have made without patents and then patent it).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The fact is that people produce variations of drugs with or without patents, but the difference is that without patents no one has to worry about an expensive legal battle every time they want to make a slight variation of a drug because someone else has some patent on something similar. Making variations of drugs and changing their chemical makeup is as cheap as making copies of existing drugs, even making “new” drugs and deciding what someone wants their chemical composition is just as cheap as copying an existing drug, it composes of the same exact chemical processes. The only thing that costs some money is testing, but to say that clinical trials are impossible without patents is nonsense. I think some patent protection is OK, but twenty years is absolutely ridiculous from when doing a present value analysis. and don’t give me this “risk” nonsense, a present value analysis would easily tell you that you would be willing to invest less for a more risky investment that gives a potential return in twenty years than a less risky one and you would certainly be willing willing to invest more for a return of equal risk that you acquire ten years from now. In other words, more risk, less investment when it comes to long term returns, which means that risk is no excuse for longer patents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Besides the fact that the U.S. government already funds much of the R&D in the U.S. and then pharma companies end up with the patents, I would much rather the government fund R&D and not grant patents whatsoever than to have a government grant patents. Neither position is any less free market capitalist, wanting a government granted monopoly on something is no more a free market capitalist position than wanting no patents and instead wanting the government to fund R&D instead. That’s not to say that private companies shouldn’t be allowed to fund their own R&D, just that they shouldn’t be allowed to get patents on medicine no matter what.

and any government funded research should be heavily regulated, I want the government auditing the companies that receive this money to ensure they properly spend it all on R&D and they don’t waste money either.

However, in the case of a system with patents, any company that does receive a patent (or more than one patent) should open up their books to government regulation as well and be audited to ensure they properly spend their money. They already gave up their free market position the moment they asked for a patent, so they have no room to cry “communism” and whatnot. They shouldn’t have it both ways, they want a monopoly it should be regulated, otherwise, no monopoly. If the government is to grant monopolies then society should ensure that those monopolies are justified.

“# The industry fought, and won, a nine-year legal battle to keep congressional investigators from the General Accounting Office from seeing the industry’s complete R&D records. (See Section IV) Congress can subpoena the records but has failed to do so. That might owe to the fact that in 1999-2000 the drug industry spent $262 million on federal lobbying, campaign contributions and ads for candidates thinly disguised as “issue” ads. (See accompanying report, “The Other Drug War: Big Pharma’s 625 Washington Lobbyists”) “

Also, if pharmaceutical corporations are going to be granted patents then we shouldn’t allow them to waste money on lobbying.

subbu says:



would you like your child to copy another child in the exam and get by in life?
there is a lot of research done in the US that improve the quality of life(average life span has increased >20 yrs.) and we copy them.
what part of the last thing are you proud of(ayurveda was before the patent system..and i dont know anybody who will go to ayurveda if he had cancer)

Anonymous Coward says:

“Pfizer, Novartis & Eli Lilly Received A Bunch Of Illegal Pharma Patents In India”

The headline is obviously an attention grabber. It does not, however, accurately reflect the contents of the linked article.

Apparently some patents on new drug formulations were granted to various national and international companies. Apparently the India Patent Office determined that the patent applications described and claimed inventions consitent with the Patent Laws in India. Apparently India Patent Law provides a post-issueance opposition procedure that may be initiated within one year following the issuance of a patent. Apparently no oppositions were filed, which does seem a bit surprising since companies in the pharmaceutical business tend to closely follow what is being done by their competitors, both domestically and internationally.

If these patents were, as you put it, illegal from the get go, then one has to wonder why no oppositions were filed by companies having a vested interest in the matter.

Jose_X (profile) says:

The US has a higher standard of living than India by many measures. We have more sophisticated tools and education and government and private sector support.

The main reason not to have much innovation in some fashion or other is that the tools and techniques are not accessible but to a small number, usually because of costs.

The US ending patent subsidies would allow innovation to spread and be shared more across the world and within our own industry. It would lead to more competition and lower prices. And the US could still give very lucrative tax subsidies that many would jump at. The subsidy need only match the risks and once a company or research institution has made certain investments costs for related exploration are reduced. Patents are a disincentive to new competitors that believe they will be beat to the mark. The risks for coming in second place or worse in a patent monopoly world having made large investments as a late comer is higher than the risks of see ROI diminish some time after you create a market.

I suspect India is in a weaker position than the US to encourage innovation that would first require more significant investments up and down the economy and society.

Widespread access to tools (including education, legal enablement, and time) is the key to innovation. And this is why software patents would be doing so much extra harm if exploited more aggressively. [A research lab, manufacturing plant, raw materials, and distribution channels in the field of software can be acquired for a year’s time for less than $1000 USD!!!]

Anonymous Coward says:

Investment chases return. That is just basic economics. If the purpose of patents is to jack up profits, wouldn’t that be returns?

I have never heard anyone in the pharma industry asking that their patents should go longer than 20 years.

One other point, I hear some posts here talking about patents keeping others from doing variations on current drugs. Wouldn’t that be “me too” drugs that most posters here say are a waste? You can’t argue both ways. Now the pharma industry will try to get extensions, but that is after doing trials on new indications. Those trials cost money too.

As for having a non profit do clinical trials? Good luck with that. What makes you think they won’t be biased also?

Jose_X (profile) says:

The US gov gives and can give tax credits to cover costs or even 2x if certain conditions are met. There are many ways that are much less damaging than 20 year monopolies.

In fact, the testing can be decoupled from the discoveries. If you discover, you have the advantage to apply for a permit to do the testing. Both the discovery of something that goes to market and the testing phase individually gain some benefit.

We could even stipulate something like 5% (or less) of revenues from competitors for the applicable pharm “invention”. If this were to last for 20 years, to use an example, then this condition would result in more incentives to develop drugs and prices would drop. In fact, have the 5% drop over the years to help stimulate more research and not resting on past success too much. [I don’t know what would be a fair length of time.]

I’m not looking at the details of these inventions because I am not sure what exactly is being patented, but in general, what we want are incentives to invent but incentives that offer a fair reward that doesn’t reward overspending, don’t hand-cuff others (or very little), and encourage you to get back to work rather than sit back reaping unchallenged profits and spending loads of cash advertizing.

There is no reason to grant long monopoly subsidies.

Ramone stracovich says:


Anyone ever look into Teva Pharma of Israel?

Buying up every pattent that expires. Owns more Generic Drtugs and buying more by the Billions of Dollars. They were trading on the stock market several years ago at $3 they are now $63. They are also stealing Drugs from the rightful developers who didnt have an ironclad seal on their drug. Why dont we wake up, then just completely give up, to The Chosen People. Cant anyone see what this Teva Take-Over is going to do to the eventual price of drungs, including Generics. Yes at the moment Teva is selling Generics cheaper than other Pharmas, but, but, What does it matter what you do, when in the end you will Own Everything.??

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