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16 September 2013Asia

Foreign drug makers claim monopoly on Indian patents

The Indian government has awarded more than two thirds of its recent pharmaceutical patents to foreign drug makers, according to data released by the Indian Patent Office (IPO).

The data revealed that more than 1,000 drug patents had been issued between April 2010 and March 2013, of which 771 were given to foreign drug makers.

US insulin maker Eli Lilly and Co won the most number patents with 36 while Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG (Roche) and Novartis, were granted 22 and 14 patents respectively, according to the IPO’s findings.

Despite the high number of successful applicants, India has been criticised for turning down applications and revoking existing patents for large foreign companies.

Novartis, which lost a case for its blood cancer drug Glivec in April this year, criticised the country’s laws following the trial’s outcome.

"We strongly believe that original innovation should be recognised in patents to encourage investment in medical innovation," the company’s India chairman Ranjit Shahanisaid said at the time.

“Novartis will continue to file for patents in India and to invest in the country, but with caution,” Shahanisaid added.

In recent weeks the government has also recommended compulsory licences be issued on patents, including Bristol-Myers Squibb's anti-cancer drug Sprycel while Roche decided not to pursue a rejected application for its anti-breast cancer drug Herceptin.

“Although foreign drug makers have bagged 77 percent of the total pharmaceutical patents granted by the Indian Patent Office (IPO) during 2010-11 to 2012-13, it is noteworthy that the overall percentage has gone down from the preceding years (2005-06 to 2009-10) when it was more than 86 per cent,” said Ashwani Balayan, partner at ALG law offices in New Delhi, India.

“Although filing by foreign drug makers has actually increased, filings by domestic applicants has increased even more,” added Balayan.

The data was published by the IPO last week.

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