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MSF unveils website to help pharma patent challengers

Patent Opposition Database contains patents facing opposition

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has launched an online resource to make it easier to challenge "unfair" patents that limit patient access to medicines.

The online Patent Opposition Database (POD) has been set up to tackle the practice of 'evergreening', in which pharma companies extend exclusive marketing rights for older drugs by filing additional patents, for example covering new formulations.

The database, accessible at patentoppositions.org, "comes as many developing countries face dramatically high drug prices because patents block the production of lower-cost generic versions", said MSF in a statement.

The database is intended to help civil society and patient groups mount 'patent oppositions' – a legal challenge allowed in some countries such as Brazil, India and Thailand that can prevent or overturn the granting of unwarranted patents.

"It's a myth that every patent application that is filed is valid," said Michelle Childs, director of policy advocacy for MSF's Access Campaign.

"When you look closely, a patent application may fail one or more of the legal tests it needs to pass," she added.

The POD has been launched on the tenth anniversary of a landmark decision by the central intellectual property court in Thailand to overturn a patent on Bristol-Myers Squibb's HIV drug didanosine, on the grounds that the drugmaker unfairly amended its initial application three years after its original submission.

The pharma industry is currently also taking action to defend patents in developing markets.

For example, Novartis is in the midst of a challenge to India's patent law in a long-running dispute focusing on section 3(d) which does not allow a new form of a drug such as a new crystal structure to be patented unless it a demonstrable improvement over the original substance.

The interpretation of the clause is central to Novartis' attempts to protect its cancer drug Glivec (imatinib) from generic competition in India.

Meanwhile, Bayer failed to block a compulsory license for its Nexavar (sorafenib) product last month while Roche recently a patent battle with Cipla over a generic rival to its Tarceva (erlotinib) cancer drug.

3rd October 2012

From: Regulatory

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