India Rejects Cancer Drug Patent

India’s Supreme Court decided Monday that it will not allow drug manufacturer Novartis AG to patent an updated version of the cancer drug Glivec, ensuring that a generic version of the medicine will continue to be available and affordable for poor patients around the world. Health activists opposed Novartis’s attempt to acquire a patent on the update—arguing that the medicine was not new, and allowing drug companies to extend patents on drugs every time a minor change is made would halt generic manufacturers from producing those drugs at a much lower cost. While the decision is a win for India’s $26 billion generic-drug industry—responsible for providing much of the cheap medicine used in the developing world—Novartis called it “a setback for patients,” arguing that “patents safeguard innovation and encourage medical progress.”