The government is examining generic drug maker Cipla's demand that Novartis' patent on respiratory drug Onbrez be revoked as the company is undermining state laws on patents.
''We are keenly watching the case launched by Novartis this week against Cipla for copying its patented medicine. It will give us leads on how to deal with Cipla's demand that Novartis' patent be revoked.
''But more importantly, our team is working on whether we could indeed move on revocation, with the case going on in court,'' Business Line quoted a Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) official as saying.
Novartis, which short-supplies the drug in India, importing it all from Switzerland rather than manufacture it locally, had moved the Delhi High Court against Cipla over the manufacture and sale of the generic Indacaterol, which is used in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The high court has reserved its judgment on the dispute between the MNC drug firm and Indian generic drugs major over the manufacture and sale of the drug.
Cipla started manufacture and sale of Indacaterol powder under the name `Unibrez', earlier this year, but later changed the name to ''Indaflo'' following court orders in November on a plea of trademark infringement by Novartis.
Cipla sells the generic version of the drug at Rs130 for 10 pills, a fifth of the price of the Novartis' Onbrez, which is sold at Rs677 (for 10 pills).
This means the drug can be made cheaper locally, but Novartis seems to be in no mood to make the drug cheaper and it has made it clear in its affidavit that it won't allow an affordable version of a medicine to be sold in the market as long as its patent holds.
The health ministry is reported to have recommended to the DIPP that the patent be revoked and a compulsory licence issued to Cipla for producing a generic copy of the drug on the ground of ''mischievous'' intent (under Section 64 of the Indian Patents Act).
Cipla launched a copy of Onbrez in New Delhi in October and also submitted an application to the DIPP, urging it to grant it a compulsory licence and revoke the five patents on the drug held by Novartis.
Cipla argues that Novartis has not started manufacturing the drug in India over the last six years since it was given the patent and also imported it in very small quantities and has sought issue of a compulsory licence to a local drug-maker to manufacture a copied version of a patented medicine.