Patent case in India highlights tensions between public health, protecting innovation
Earlier this month, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) began legal proceedings to block Pfizer’s attempts to patent its top-selling pneumonia vaccine in India. Called Prevnar 13, the vaccine pulled in over $6 billion dollars last year.
MSF hopes to prevent Pfizer from successfully patenting the drug in India in order to ensure other manufacturers can produce the vaccine at prices more affordable for India’s population and for MSF itself. Only one other drugmaker, GlaxoSmithKline, makes a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and both versions can be expensive.
Interestingly, this is not the first time a patent on Prevnar 13 has been challenged. In 2014, rival drugmakers Merck and Novartis successfully petitioned the European Patent Office to revoke Pfizer’s patent there, citing lack of novelty and inventiveness. (It is currently under appeal.) MSF’s patent opposition in India shares some similarities with that case.
More broadly, the case in India highlights some of the intersections between drug affordability, the need for patent protection on innovation, and differences between national patent law.
- Health Care