Taking TRIPS to India — Novartis, patent law, and access to medicines

In August and September 2006, patients with cancer, lawyers for patient advocacy groups, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) converged on the offices of Novartis in Mumbai, India, to protest the company's efforts to obtain an Indian patent on Gleevec, the company's brand-name version of imatinib mesylate. Gleevec (spelled Glivec outside the United States) is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia, and Novartis has patented the drug in 35 countries. The protesters also decried the drug's high price: Novartis sells it in India (where only 5% of people have private health insurance) for $26,000 per year; generic-drug manufacturers offer the drug at less than one tenth that price.