‘Ecosystem to encourage innovation does not exist here'

Novartis will not invest in research and development (R&D) in India as the ecosystem to encourage innovation does not exist here, the company has said.

The pharma major, which was denied a patent for its anti-cancer drug Glivec by the Supreme Court on Monday, said that while it would continue to invest in R&D globally, it hoped to get the right environment to do so here.

“No global player has invested in R&D here, and, it is unlikely to happen given the atmosphere here,” Ranjit Shahani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Novartis India told reporters here.

“India is a developing country and needs to encourage innovation. The verdict is not very encouraging and shows that the ecosystem to encourage innovation does not exist here. If investments have to flow into R&D, the ecosystem has to be right,” Mr. Shahani said adding that the ruling was a setback to patients and would hinder medical progress.

Patented products constitute a very small percentage of drugs sold in India and Indian companies such as Cipla and Natco Pharma make generic versions of Glivec and sell it at a fraction of the price sold by Novartis.

“We brought this case because we strongly believe that patents safeguard innovation and encourage medical progress, particularly for unmet medical needs. We have to test the system all the time. The issue is not about Glivec. We will not stop the supply of medicines to India. More than 9 out of 10 patients currently taking Glivec in India will continue to get the drug free through Novartis Oncology Access programmes. There are 1,200 oncologists in India in cities mainly and they know about the access programme,” he said.

Novartis’ shares on the Bombay Stock Exchange opened at Rs. 599 and moved to a high of Rs. 604.8. However, after the news of the judgement came in, the stock moved to a 14-month low of Rs. 558.1 before recovering smartly to close at Rs. 587.95.