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Delhi HC upholds order restricting sale of Cipla's respiratory disease drug

Sayan Ghosal & Veena Mani / New Delhi 10 Mar 17 | 01:21 AM

A division bench of the Delhi High Court on Thursday upheld a single judge order restraining Cipla from selling its respiratory disease drug – Indaflo.  Cipla had launched the drug in the Indian market in 2014 under the name Unibrez, while also calling for the revocation of five Novartis patents on Indacaterol, the generic version of the respiratory medicine. 

Cipla later had to change the name Unibrez to Indaflo, after a court order held the earlier name as infringing on the trademark of Novartis’s own variant – Onbrez. After winning the first round in court, Novartis filed a separate suit for permanent injunction claiming the infringement of its patent on Indacaterol by Cipla. 

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Novartis’s bid to stop Cipla from selling Indacaterol in its entirety became a reality after a single judge bench in January 2015, restrained Cipla from selling their version of the drug, until otherwise allowed a compulsory license to sell the medicine from a competent authority.  Following this order, both companies filed cross appeals before a division bench of the Delhi High Court. 

Cipla lawyers Abhishek Singhvi and Pratibha Singh had argued that Novartis ought to grant a license for making the product to ensure its sufficient availability in India at an affordable price. Cipla had priced Indaflo, its version of the drug, at Rs 130 per pack of ten tablets, compared with Rs 677 for Onbrez. 

The counsels had also highlighted that Novartis imported the drug, which they claimed made it unaffordable to local patients and violated one of the key grounds to keep a drug's patents valid. 

Rejecting these contentions, and others pleas on grounds of public interest, Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva sided with Novartis while pronouncing Thursday’s judgment. “No interference with the impugned order is merited. The appeal is dismissed," said Justice Ahmed while pronouncing the order in open court.

“Novartis commends the steps being taken by the Government to create an environment that fosters and promotes investments in innovation.  Patents are the foundation of innovative drug discovery and essential to advancing medical science and treatments for patients," said Jawed Zia, country president, Novartis in response to the verdict.

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