Chain Reaction : Major Drug Makers cuts price of Cancer Drugs:

Just a day after German Giant –Bayer Corp. filed an appeal with IPAB against the grant of C.L . to Indian generic company NATCO Pharma Ltd print media were occupied with the headlines that Swiss based Roche Holding AG & local drug maker Cipla Ltd have decided to sharply cut prices of five of their high cost oncology brands.

This news is undoubtedly has come as a big relief for cancer patients in a country like India where cancers like oral ,stomach, liver ,Lung & breast cancers kills lakhs of patients every year. Some of the key cancer drugs under patent protection in India- Erlotininb ( Lung Cancer), Sunitinib(kidney cancer),sorafenib (liver and kidney cancer ) , Rituximab (blood and lymphatic cancer ) .These drugs are not covered under India’s drug price control as these are new drugs.

Affordability Vs Innovation:

Many of the medicines available for treatment for fighting these cancers are developed and sold by foreign firms  and are beyond the reach of a majority people , with their prices ranging  from  Rs.1.3 lakhs to Rs. 3lakhs  for a month’s treatment. Cipla’s price cuts (up to 76%) will provide relief to a large number of  cancer patients in India.

It is believed that this  unexpected move of Cipla of  cutting its  cancer drugs cost has been prompted by grant of generic version of Nexavar  patented by  Bayer AG. It can be said for now that Compulsory License  appears to be serving useful public purpose . A Major question which is clearly visible and remains unanswered is that foreign firms whose products are subjected to compulsory licensing and others as well may not innovate  to create new drugs .Worse will be the case if these foreign firms decides not to  introduce new medicines in the  Indian market simply because these  firms will not be able to recover costs of  huge investments vested in developing their new drugs.

Critics are speculating that in the short run compulsory licensing will provide relief to  many poor patients but  the major concern is that in the long run  the pipeline to treat different –many currently incurable  diseases   like Parkinson’s ,Alzheimer’s, Tuberculosis , will dry up.

Indian Govt. Needs to Consider the Trade off after granting C.L

The Govt. needs to carefully consider the tradeoffs between making vital medicines available at a reasonable cost and imp. IP issues that can create problem in times to come. Foreign firms like Bayer A.G, Roche view C.L as a forcible weakening of IP rights  because these drug makers based in US and west  spend huge amount of money on R&D . Licensing of these drugs threaten profits made by them in a  developing country like India.