In a judgement that could have major ramifications for Indian drug makers as well as the global pharmaceutical industry, the Supreme Court will on Monday, 1 April 2013, announce its verdict on a patents case filed by Basel-based Novartis against the Indian government in 2006 over its cancer drug Glivec.
Explaining its stand to newspersons in Mumbai on Wednesday, Novartis said that going by recent decisions in cases relating to protecting intellectual property rights, the "most likely" scenario is that the company would lose patent protection on Glivec.
Paul Herrling, corporate research head at Novartis, said that the spate of rulings over the past year curbing drug patents in the country, and the compulsory licences issued to generic drug companies, were a concern for research-based companies.
"Looking at recent cases, the mood in India makes it more likely that we would have a more negative response," he said in a hastily-summoned teleconference.
The Swiss pharmaceutical company is challenging a crucial provision in India's patent law, which gives very limited protection for newer forms of existing molecules.
Anti-leukaemia drug Glivec is one of highest-selling drugs for the Swiss company, with global sales of nearly $4 billion. Treatment with this drug costs a patient around $36,000 per year.
There are more affordable genetic versions of Glivec already in the Indian market.
The judgment is considered be crucial not just because it will give an indication of the extent of patent rights, but it will also clarify many definitions such as those relating to the efficacy of a drug.
The judgement could also be an indicator to other emerging economies on the provisions they can have in their own patent law.