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India top court to deliver key drug patent ruling

Published on Apr 1, 2013 6:15 AM

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Supreme Court is set to rule on Monday on a patent challenge by Swiss drug giant Novartis that activists say threatens access to cheap generic versions of life-saving drugs in developing nations.

The landmark case - watched closely by global drug firms and patient groups - involves an updated version of Novartis' blockbuster cancer drug Glivec, for which the company has fought a seven-year legal battle to win patent protection.

India's patent office has so far refused to grant protection, asserting that the amended form of Glivec was not vastly different from the earlier version.

The challenge strikes at the heart of India's patent law, which restricts pharmaceutical companies from seeking fresh patents for making only small modifications to existing drugs - an industry practice known as "evergreening".

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