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More Must Be Done To Find Balance Between Drug Innovation, Affordable Health Care

“The decision by India’s Supreme Court to overturn the patent on Novartis’s cancer treatment Glivec is good news for more affordable health care and bad news for drug innovation,” a Financial Times editorial states, adding, “It fails fundamentally to address either issue, both of which need wide-ranging reform.” By disallowing the drug maker to file for new patents on the drug, the court in New Delhi “upheld India’s commitments to the World Trade Organization, albeit with intellectual property rules that are tougher than in most other countries,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Today, Novartis and its rivals are able to file for patents in India on innovative medicines. Yet they may need additional incentives to compensate for the risks and costs of clinical trials if they later discover it is a modified version of the medicine that works.”

“Morally, companies holding monopolies should charge fair prices. Economically, much greater use of discounting in poorer markets would allow them to make up in volume what is lost in higher prices,” the editorial continues. “Such differential pricing, combined with low-cost licenses to allow cheaper production by generic companies, has proved a valuable model for HIV drugs — and one in which India’s manufacturers played a leading role,” the Financial Times notes, adding, “The same policy should be extended more widely, including for cancer treatments, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases ever more burdensome for poorer as well as richer countries.” The newspaper concludes, “New Delhi must make far greater efforts to invest in its own health system and create structures to ensure its population has far better access to affordable doctors, medicines and other treatments alike.”

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.