Colombia Threatens to Override Novartis’s Patent on Gleevec - (The Wall Street Journal via NewsPoints Desk)

  • Columbia's health minister said the government will issue a compulsory license on Novartis' leukaemia treatment Gleevec by month's end and open it up to generic manufacturers unless the Swiss drugmaker accepts a price cut, reported The Wall Street Journal.

  • "Technological pressure and high drug prices have brought the healthcare system to a financial crisis," stated Alejandro Gaviria, adding that "Colombia is a paradigmatic case of a middle-income country, with a growing health system and with rising expectations from its middle class, which cannot pay high prices for new drugs."

  • Commenting on the news, Novartis spokeswoman Julie Masow said the company "is aware and sympathetic" to the financial challenges in Colombia and is actively seeking a resolution.

  • However, she said compulsory licenses "should never be used to force price negotiations, as is the case here [as] this would create a damaging precedent that could apply to all patent-covered innovations, pharmaceutical or otherwise."

  • Gleevec generated revenue of $4.7 billion last year, although sales from the drug are poised to decline sharply after a generic version launched in the US in February.

  • Authorities in Colombia say a proposal to cut the drug's regulated price to less than half of the $15 000 it currently costs each patient annually was rejected by Novartis, even though the proposed price was above comparable generic versions.

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