Pharmaceutical Giant Novartis Challenges India's Patent Laws, Threatening Delivery of AIDS Drugs to Tens of Thousands

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 3:54 PM EST

The pharmaceutical industry once again stirs a witches' brew, reports New Scientist, challenging patent laws that have enabled India to supply AIDS drugs to poor patients worldwide.

India's generic drugs form the backbone of MSF's [Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders] AIDS programmes, in which 80,000 people in 30 countries receive treatment.

"We are reaching a quarter of the people who need antiretroviral treatment in sub-Saharan Africa," says Ivy Mwangi, an MSF doctor. "Rapid scale-up in treatment is only possible with the availability and affordability of generic drugs, most of which are produced in India."

But Swiss pharma-giant Novartis is whinging that financial hegemony is the only sure road to drug innovation, and that India should not be allowed to provide generics for people who can't pay $10,000 a year for its drugs.

"If Novartis gets through with its case our lives are at risk," Monique Wanjala, a woman who has been living with HIV for 13 years, told a news conference in Nairobi. "We want this case dropped," she said. "If we die because affordable generic drugs aren't available, where will they sell the drug? If profits are going to be put before peoples' lives then we have a serious problem."

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.