After Indian court ruling MSF Hands Over 420,000 Petition signatures to Novartis

MSF asks company not to pursue case

Médecins Sans Frontières Hong Kong (MSF-HK) handed over 420,000 plus names collected in an online petition over the past eight months to the Novartis corporate office in Hong Kong today. Novartis lost a legal challenge against India’s patent law last Monday.

“Monday’s court decision in India is critical for us as doctors, who now feel confident that we will be able to continue to rely on India as a source of affordable medicines for our patients,” says Dr. Christophe Fournier, International President of MSF, in Switzerland.  “We are pleased to hear that Novartis does not intend to appeal this decision.  And we call on the company to refrain from pushing for a challenge of the Indian Patents Act at the World Trade Organisation or otherwise.”

Novartis challenged a provision in India’s Patents Act that makes it more difficult for companies to receive patents on changes to existing drugs or combinations of drugs, claiming that this was not compliant with WTO rules and with the Indian constitution.  The court rejected all of Novartis’s claims.  If the company had won, drug patents would have likely been granted far more widely in India, restricting generic competition.

“We would like to express sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed to the global mobilization against Novartis’s legal challenge in India,” says Dr. Fournier.  “Hundreds of thousands of people on six continents made this happen and were a part of helping maintain India’s role as pharmacy of the developing world.”

More than 3,000 people from Hong Kong and China have signed the 'Drop the Case' petition to put pressure on Novartis. "The outcome of the courtcase in India is a huge relief for millions of doctors and patients", says Mr. Dick van der Tak, Executive Director of MSF Hong Kong."We hope that the ruling of the case will lead to better access to much needed medicines and the development of new treatments so desperately needed in the developing world."

Developing countries and international agencies like UNICEF and the Clinton Foundation rely heavily on importing affordable drugs from India, and 84% of the AIDS drugs MSF prescribes to its patients worldwide come from Indian generic companies.

A World Health Organisation report released in April 2006 found that increased intellectual property protection in developing countries had not led to higher levels of research and development (R&D) for diseases that primarily affect the developing world.  It is crucial that there is support for international discussions on new ways to foster R&D that responds to health needs and at the same time ensures that medical innovations are affordable.

The on-line petition urging Novartis to DROP THE CASE against the Indian government was launched last December. The petition together with the signatures has been officially handed over by Dr. Fournier to the Headquarter of Novartis in Basel, Switzerland.