The Supreme Court has once again asked pharma company Novartis to cut the price of its cancer drug Glivec, made from compound imatinib mesylate. The court suggested that the company cut the price saying that the company's scheme for providing the drug free to poor patients was complicated.
The court said that Rs1.2 lakh per month was too high a price to afford a treatment. Glivec is the trade name of chemical beta crystalline form of imatinib mesylate compound used in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumours.
An apex court bench of justice Aftab Alam and justice Ranjana Prakash Desai told Novartis counsel Gopal Subramanium yesterday that the company's proposal on poor patients was a ''complicated scheme for identifying those who are entitled to be given (free medicine) and those who can afford paying 80 days of annual cost of Glivec''.
According to justice Alam, the end result of any commercial venture was profit or loss and what mattered was ''rupaiya, aana and paisa'', thereby, meaning whatever scheme for poor there might be, at the end of the day, Novartis' business transactions were all about financial results.
The court's observation followed Subramanium submitting an undertaking by Novartis stating that if it was granted patent for Glivec then it would continue its programme of providing free of cost or subsidised Glivec to eligible patients. Novartis filed the affidavit in response to a query by the court as to whether the pharma company would continue with its scheme of providing free or subsidised medicine to poor and needy patients if it was granted patent of Glivec.
The court's query came in the context of its observation that Novartis had no legal obligation of providing subsidised or free Glivec to needy patients and urged the company to earn the goodwill of the people and establish its bonafides by reducing the price of the medicine.