Indian court OKs copies of expensive cancer drug

India has authorized a domestic pharmaceutical company to manufacture an expensive anti-cancer drug developed by Bayer Corp. The move undermines Bayer’s patent on the drug, but has been praised by activists because it will make the drug cheaper and more widely available.

Under the ruling by the controller of patents in Mumbai, the Indian drug company, Natco Pharma, can make a generic copy of Nexavar and sell it for a fraction of the price charged by Bayer.

The patented drug is used to treat liver and kidney cancer. The Indian company will sell it for about $175 for 120 tablets compared to approximately $5,500 charged by Bayer. It will pay a royalty to Bayer of 6 percent.

The move effectively ends Bayer’s monopoly on the drug. Authorities used a rule under which they can grant a compulsory license if a drug is not available at a reasonably affordable price. This is the first time India has applied the rule.

The Indian patent controller says the drug was clearly unaffordable to most of the country because very few patients had used it.

Bayer had argued that the price should reflect the development cost and not just the public’s buying power. The company has said it is disappointed with the decision and will evaluate its options to defend its intellectual property rights in India.

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