NGO to push for compulsory licensing of cancer drugs

Update: A recent Times of India article discusses the actual effectiveness of the Public Interest Litigation provision and its current troubles. You can read the article here.

An NGO called Cancer Patient Aids Association (CPAA) has embarked on a campaign to mandate compulsory licensing for 20 different drugs used to treat cancer sufferers. These drugs include those manufactured by some of the largest pharma companies in the world, like Pfizer, Roche, and GSK. CPAA is an experience advocate for affordable medicines, and are building off of the momentum of their success from last year. The Economic Times of India reports:

CPAA was one of the healthcare groups in the forefront of the successful legal battle against Novartis’ Glivec last year. While the NGO plans to first approach the health ministry for invoking the CL provision, it is ready to go the Supreme Court if the government rejects to the demand.

Instead of taking a piecemeal approach of individual clients which is inefficient and cost prohibitive for most people, the NGO aims to take on the entire industry in one coordinated attack to require that pharma companies allow generics to produce these pills in India. The generic manufacturers would then pay royalties to the original pharma companies.

In order to achieve this strategy, the organization has framed their argument to say that the current high prices of these drugs is a violation to a constitutional right to life for the patients.

“There is no point in fighting patent cases for individual drugs. How many patents will we fight against? It is just unaffordable for patients to pay lakhs of rupees for these drugs, in addition to paying for other treatment and medicines. It’s an emergency situation when thousands of cancer patients are being denied their constitutional right to life. Hence, the government can invoke CL in the public interest, “ CPAA president Y K Sapru said.

This approach is interesting, because in India, such public interest litigation can be invoked by the Court itself and does not require that a specific party come to bar.

“Under the Indian Patent Act, all life-saving and essential drugs which are patented and expensive can be granted CL if it they are unavailable, unaffordable, for government’s use and for public non-commercial use. It is wrong to say that it can be granted only for extreme national urgency or in the case of emergency, “ MSF’s access campaigner in India, Leena Menghaney said.

[Source: NGO Post]