Bayer loses cancer drug patent case

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), the appellate body for patent related cases, has upheld a decision to allow domestic drug maker Natco Pharmaceuticals to manufacture and sell a generic version of Bayer AG's cancer drug Nexavar, in a blow for global drugmakers' efforts to hold on to monopolies on high-priced medicines.

Under the compulsory licence awarded to Natco Pharama last year, cancer patients in India are able to buy generic Nexavar at Rs8,800 for a month's dose against Bayer's price of Rs2,80,000 for the branded Nexavar.

The ruling paves the way for the issue of such compulsory licences across emerging markets like China and Thailand where healthcare authorities are battling high healthcare costs.

Health authorities in the developing and poor countries are finding it increasingly difficult to provide access to affordable drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, HIV-AIDS and hepatitis amidst soaring drug prices.

Bayer, Germany's largest drug maker, however, said the ruling weakened the international patent system and endangered pharmaceutical research and that it would continue to fight to overturn the decision.

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) allows countries to issue compulsory licences of certain drugs that are deemed unaffordable to a large section of their populations.