Stating that Novartis had no reason to complain and everything had been done under the legal process, Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma on Tuesday said constitutional offices are not expected to dictate or determine judicial pronouncements but respect the same.
Talking to The Hindu over phone from Geneva, Mr. Sharma wondered why India was being faulted for following the judicial process and respecting the verdict of the highest court. “We have followed a legal process in the High Court and Supreme Court. We have a Patent Act in place in the country. We are committed to innovation and research but will have to find the right kind of balance between the social obligation of providing cheap and accessible drugs to the poor and weak sections of the population and looking after the interests of companies involved in the pharmaceutical sector,’’ he remarked.
Mr. Sharma, who spoke at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva on Monday evening, said Novartis is the third largest beneficiary of registered patents in India, behind Roche and Sanofi, with 147 patents to its name in the country.
“Why India is not being respected for having granted the 147 patents to the same company rather than triggering off a debate on why Indian judiciary has denied something in one case,” he asked.
Stating that India was firmly committed to protecting intellectual property, he pointed out that those applying for patents in the country had more than doubled in the last five years.
“On one hand we have a large number of companies who have invested billions in research, in developing new molecules, in new drug discoveries and in research. On the other hand, there is a social obligation to provide affordable and cheap drugs and healthcare. We have to strike the right balance,” he added.
Mr. Sharma said that Novartis had been denied the patent or ever-greening under the law of the country and it was completely justified. He said the massive manufacturing of generic drugs in the country had been instrumental in bringing down the cost dramatically and increasing the availability of life saving drugs to combat various diseases including AIDS and cancer.