The Briefing Room: Novartis in India, Generic Drugs, Bird Flu, Sleep Apnea

In case you missed it, Monday featured a number of interesting developments in the world of healthcare and life sciences. Most notably, a seemingly rare patent defeat may harm Novartis’ bottom line in India, but helps secure a mass population to a popular leukemia drug. India has emerged as a leading market for drug innovation, yet faces a crossroads — as legislation now protects what has become the largest generic drug market in the world.


Additionally, we’re interested in some new developments in Chinese bird flu, sleep apnea, and sexual health in adolescents.

Enjoy these stories, and stay tuned for a more substantive look at the state of drug development in India.


Patent’s Defeat in India is Key Victory for Generic Drugs

Monday was a notable day for the Indian Supreme Court as Swiss drug maker Novartis’ patent request for a cancer drug was rejected.  This ruling permits those that make generic drugs in India to resume the production of ‘copycat versions’ of the Norvatis drug, otherwise known as Gleevec, or Glivec as it’s often termed in Europe, which is a well-known drug used to treat leukemia. India has been labeled as the pharmacy capital of the world, and as such, the significance of this issue in this particular location will have far-reaching effects.

The yearly cost of Gleevec is approximately $70,000, while the yearly rate of an Indian generic version would cost around $2,500. This recent Supreme Court decision has been viewed as a victory for patients internationally, as India is able to continue their production of high-quality and cost-effective medicines. India has in recent years emerged as a leader in drug development as many companies have been inspired by the country’s friendly regulatory environment and diverse patient population to engage in clinical trials and invest in drug development.

However, it has been argued that the ruling will have a negative effect in years to come. India also has the most developed generic drug market in the world; until recently, India had no IP protection for pharmaceutical products. In theory, such a practice is appropriate for such a large population susceptible to epidemics — of which a significant percentage live in poverty. Still, according to GlaxoSmithKline, access to many needed treatments — specifically major AIDS drugs, for example — remains lower than in other markets, including Africa.

The vice chairman of Novartis’ Indian subsidiary, Ranjit Shahani, intimated that companies similar to Novartis are now much less likely to invest money in research in India.


Bird Flu Deaths Has China On Edge

In Shanghai, the bird flu, known as H7N9, has been the cause of two deaths in the last month. As yet there is official news on whether or not this new flu can be transmitted from human to human, but the uncertainty is causing an international upset. Different bird flu outbreaks have been documented in Cambodia, India, Indonesia and various places around the world.


Sleep Apnea in Kids Linked to Behavioral Problems

This study found that children with sleep apnea were more likely to receive lower grades in school and seven times more likely to have learning and behavioral issues. Research led by Michelle Perfect, PHD, who stresses the importance of school personnel being keenly aware of Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SBD) and the effect that this has on students within the classroom. The sleep apnea market may be as large as $32BN and is considered a life threatening condition; many in the medical community regard the most popular treatment options as coming up short.


Study: Sexual Activity is Rare Among Young Adolescents

The study discussed in the article found that contrary to popular belief, the majority of young adolescents are not sexually active. Further, studies show that the incidents that do occur among adolescents ages 10-12 are often involuntary. Over 62% of girls who have had sex by the age of 10 attribute it to a second party who coerced them into it. The report cited in the article also shows that teens are now more likely to use contraceptives. Overall the outlook is positive, as it seems teens are becoming more sexually health-conscious.


**Interested in contributing to our special report on the State of Drug Development in India? Have a story idea or a news lead we missed? Give us a call and let us know at 212.734.1008**

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