Cipla’s anti–AIDS pill may lead to calls for compulsory licensing
Cipla would be the first Indian company to manufacture and market an anti–AIDS pill, branded Nivimune. The company has priced its tablet at Rs 135 per tablet as against Rs 344 for an imported tablet. The pill, it is claimed reduces the risk of transmission of the AIDS virus during childbirth by almost 50%.
Cipla’s strategy has been to develop products by reverse engineering and the introduction of the anti–AIDS medicine is an example of that. The patent on this medicine expires in 2010. However, since India does not have a patent law that recognises product patents Cipla can get away with the introduction of this drug. It may not be able to do after 2005 when product patents come into force.
The total cost for the entire anti–AIDS therapy comes to around Rs 1800 per day, which is unaffordable by large sections of the Indian populace. Multinationals such as Glaxo have been planning to introduce their patented anti–AIDS therapy at a discounted price of Rs 800 per day especially for the Indian market. However, the introduction of the pill by Cipla could even force Glaxo to offer larger discounts.
What the impact of the introduction of this therapy would mean that for public policy is still not clear. Indian pharma companies, cite a US legislation aimed at bringing down the prices of essential drugs, that seeks to have patented products licensed out to generic players in the country if the drug has ‘substantial public health benefit’. The Indian pharmaceutical companies have been arguing that even under a product patent regime, they should be given compulsory licenses to manufacture a patentable product if the multinational patent–holder in India engages in exploitative pricing.
The pricing of the entire anti–AIDS therapy at around one sixth the cost at which MNCs are offering the therapy could possibly be used to justify the introduction of compulsory licensing in the product patent regime.
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