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Novartis attempts to weaken Indian Patent Law threatens to restrict access to live-saving medicines for millions in the developing world

09 - 28 - 2011

This afternoon, Act Up-Paris protested in front of Novartis-France headquarters in Rueil Malmaison, a town near Paris. The activists blocked the entrance of the building and shut the gate. They unfurled a banner which said « Over our dead bodies », recovered the entrance of fake-blood and chanted slogans such as « Shame, shame, shame on Novartis». Novatis decided to call the police. The protest aimed to denounce the policy of the Swiss firm which is suing the Indian government in Court. The next hearing will take place on the 17th October in New Delhi. If Novartis wins, the ability of India to produce cheap generic medicines for new molecules will be strongly affected. This is a declaration of war to people living with the diseases worldwide. Act Up-Paris condemns this action of the vulture Novartis.

Novartis making a killing in profits

India is known as the ‘Pharmacy of the developing world’ for producing and supplying affordable generic drugs to more than 150 developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. But India’s capacity to provide affordable drugs to millions of people is being threatened by Novartis which is challenging a critical health safeguard –section 3(d) of Indian Patent Law in the Supreme Court of India, a section however critical to protect the access to health.
For the past 5 years Novartis has been dragging the Government of India and cancer patients to Indian courts to try and change this law. First they tried to have it removed from the Indian patents law. Novartis lost that case. Now through this court case, Novartis is attempting to weaken Section 3(d), a provision specifically designed by the Indian Parliament to prevent drug companies from abusively patenting known medicines. If Novartis win this case and manages to change the interpretation of Section 3(d) to obtain the patent for its cancer drug Imatinib Mesylate, then India will be forced to grant more and more patents that will eventually result in killing generic production and increasing drug prices exorbitantly. India’s ability to act as the pharmacy of the developing world hugely depends on this legal battle between Novartis and Government of India.

Feasting on our dead bodies

While Novartis is playing with the interests of the patients across the globe suffering from life threatening diseases such as cancer and AIDS, this Swiss firm continues to make huge profits as its net sales reached up to $10 billion in 2010.
The giant firm boasts that it bolsters the economic growth of Switzerland and protects the country from any setbacks from the financial crisis. But all this comes at the cost of the lives and health of millions of people in developing countries. Novartis is taking advantage of this position, enjoying its monopolies over patented medicines and feasting on our dead bodies.

Act Up-Paris urges Novartis to drop its complaint without delay and to take its claws off our medicines. Joseph Jimenez, Novartis CEO, should resign immediately.

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