Issue Date: September 14, 2009
India Strikes Down AIDS Drug Patents
India’s patent office has rejected applications from two U.S. drug companies for patent protection for two HIV/AIDS drugs: tenofovir, a first-line AIDS treatment that Gilead Sciences sells under the name Viread, and darunavir, a second-line treatment sold by Tibotec Pharmaceuticals as Prezista. Of the two drugs, tenofovir has the larger market because it’s a first-line treatment that is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. The Indian drug producer Cipla objected to patent protection for tenofovir in a petition filed in 2006, arguing that the drug lacked novelty. Cipla had rejected the terms of a licensing agreement with Gilead—signed by 11 other Indian generic drug producers—that forbids sale of a generic version of tenofovir to middle-income developing countries such as China and Brazil. India’s decision will help reduce the price of essential AIDS medications by opening the market to generic competitors, says the Swiss health care activist group Doctors Without Borders. Indian patent laws prohibit “evergreening,” which is the practice of patenting “trivial” changes to existing drugs, the group adds.
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