India revokes local cancer drug patent

August 2, 2013
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India has revoked a local patent granted to Britain's GlaxoSmithKline for a breast cancer drug in the latest blow to companies seeking a bigger presence in the country's $13 billion medicine market/AFP
India has revoked a local patent granted to Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline for a breast cancer drug/AFP

, NEW DELHI, August 2 – India has revoked a local patent granted to Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline for a breast cancer drug in the latest blow to companies seeking a bigger presence in the country’s $13 billion medicine market.

Tykerb, one of the most widely prescribed breast cancer treatments in India used to treat advanced forms of the disease, is a newer version of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) original anti breast cancer drug lapatinib.

The Indian patent board revoked the patent for Tykerb, calling it an incremental improvement of the original compound and not sufficiently innovative to warrant a patent.

The ruling underscores Indian authorities’ tough stance against what is called “evergreening” or minor changes to a drug to extend its patent shelf life, said Dominc Alvares, the lawyer who was part of the team which challenged GSK’s Tykerb patent.

“India has some of the toughest patent laws and they are based on public interest,” Alvares, of S. Majumdar and Co, told AFP.

Once drugs go off patent, they can be sold more cheaply.

GSK had argued that Tykerb delivered a better “therapeutic” effect than its predecessor.

“We are disappointed that the patent board has revoked our patent for the lapatinib ditosylate salt (Tykerb),” a company official said in an emailed message.

“Intellectual property protection is an important aspect in ensuring innovation is encouraged and appropriately rewarded,” the official added, asking not to be named.

Western drug makers are seeking to win a larger part of India’s rapidly expanding drugs market, valued at around $13 billion.

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