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Indian Drugmaker Seeks to Make, Sell Generic Version of Pfizer's HIV Drug

January 5, 2011

The Indian drugmaker Natco Pharma "said Wednesday it has informed Pfizer Inc. that it wants to make and sell a low-cost generic version of the U.S. company's [drug] maraviroc for treating the HIV infection under a so-called 'compulsory license' [CL]," Dow Jones Newswires/Smart Money reports. "Natco Pharma's move is significant because, if successful, the Indian generic drug maker will set a precedent for other Indian companies to override multinational drug makers' patents for the treatments of diseases ranging from cancer to hypertension," according to the new service.

The company "wants to sell its generic version of maraviroc in India at INR15,000 [330 USD] for a month's supply, compared with the INR65,000 [$1,431] price tag for Pfizer's branded version, a spokesman for the Indian drug maker told Dow Jones Newswires," the news service writes. "Natco Pharma could get permission to make and sell a low-cost copy of maraviroc in India under a 'compulsory license' for the remaining term of the patent if it can be established that the patented product isn't available to the public in the country at an affordable price," according to the article. "Indian patent laws allow applications for the grant of a 'compulsory license' three years from the date a patent has been given. According to an Economic Times newspaper report ... Pfizer got the patent for maraviroc in January 2007," Dow Jones Newswires/Smart Money writes (Ahmed, 1/5).

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"The fate of the case this year and the government's response could shake up foreign drugmakers' ability to sell high priced patented products in India [where] ... an estimated 2.3 million people [are] living with HIV," the Economic Times reports. "'Proposals to promote the use of CL could inhibit technological development in the sector in India and thereby undermine efforts to make medicines and other products widely available to patients,' Tapan Ray, director general of [the] Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, had said in its response to a government's discussion note regarding the use of CL in last September," according to the newspaper.

The Economic Times reports that "Pfizer has time till May to reply, as Indian patent law allows an innovator company to respond within six months of receiving a notice for voluntary license," which in this case was delivered by Natco to Pfizer in November (Singh, 1/5).

"The multinational drug industry relies on the protection of intellectual property for innovation to fund the high cost of research, but India's patent office and courts have been less inclined to defend patents on a number of occasions, contending that prices have to be kept low so the country's vast, and mostly poor, population can afford medicines," Dow Jones Newswires/Smart Money continues. The article notes how multinational drug makers have responded to India's patent laws and includes quotes by Ranjit Kapadia, vice president of institutional research at HDFC Securities (1/5).

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