Big Pharma loses landmark case

April 1, 2013

India’s Supreme Court makes an historic patent ruling, Cyprus puts forth a plan, and South Korea vows a counter-strike should the North attack. Today is Monday, April 1, and this is a Fools’ Day-free zone. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

People gather at Novartis’ India headquarters in Mumbai, April 1, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Blow to Big Pharma. India’s Supreme Court ruled against Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis AG’s plea for patent protection for its cancer drug Glivec, tipping the scale in favor of local generic drugmakers:

The decision sets a benchmark for intellectual property cases in India, where many patented drugs are unaffordable for most of its 1.2 billion people, and does not bode well for foreign firms engaged in ongoing disputes in India, including Pfizer Inc and Roche Holding AG, analysts said. Among the chief beneficiaries of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling will be India’s Cipla Ltd and Natco Pharma Ltd, which already sell ‘generic’ Glivec in India at around one-tenth of the price of the branded drug.

The ruling is a victory for healthcare activists who have lobbied for cheaper treatments for those struggling to afford life-saving medicine. Forty percent of Indians live on less than $1.25 a day. Novartis says the ruling “discourages innovative drug discovery.” The precedent-setting decision will affect Western pharmaceutical companies’ ability to profit from India’s growing drug industry, and likely be seen as a model for future patent cases.

Man with a plan. Cyprus’ president today presented a program to bolster the country’s economy in the wake of a bailout plan that placed a heavy burden on depositors:

President Nicos Anastasiades, who briefed ministers on the economy during an informal meeting, said the 12-point growth plan would be put to the cabinet for approval within the next 15 days. The program includes measures to attract foreign investment to the island – a hub for offshore finance – as well as tax exemptions on business profits reinvested there, and the easing of payment terms and interest rates on loans.

The reform plan includes lifting a ban on casinos in the south of the island in hopes of attracting tourists. On Saturday, Cyprus banking officials confirmed that roughly 60 percent of accounts larger than 100,000 euros will be seized by the government, with no guarantee of repayment, as part of the 10 billion euro bailout plan decided last week. The Cypriot public remained calm when banks reopened on Thursday, but peaceful protests take place most days.

South Korea warns North it will retaliate. South Korean President Park Geun-hye vowed to strike back swiftly if attacked by the North:

The South has changed its rules of engagement to allow local units to respond immediately to attacks, rather than waiting for permission from Seoul. Stung by criticism that its response to the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010 was tardy and weak, Seoul has also threatened to target North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and to destroy statues of the ruling Kim dynasty in the event of any new attack, a plan that has outraged Pyongyang.

North Korea said on Saturday that it was entering a “state of war” with its neighbor. According to North Korea’s state news agency, Kim Jong-un refused to put nuclear weapons “on the table of negotiations,” in a recent meeting of the North Korean parliament. North Korea placed its military on standby to attack on Friday in response to increased U.N. sanctions and joint military drills by South Korea and the U.S. Russia warned against a “vicious cycle,” urging all involved to show restraint as tensions rise.

Nota Bene: A series of Reuters photographs documents devastating pollution in China.


Bad for business – Attacks on women in India have contributed to a significant decrease in tourism. (Al Jazeera)

Egypt’s Jon Stewart posts bail – A satirist charged with insulting President Mursi has been released on bail. (The New York Times)

Pigsticking – To the dismay of traditionalists, animal rights activists are targeting Spain’s ancient hunting sport. (The Los Angeles Times)

Danke demand – Germans want more credit for their role in bailing out Cyprus. (BBC)

The truth about North Korea – The Atlantic’s Joel S. Wit and Jenny Town discuss five myths about the secretive country. (The Atlantic)

From the File:

  • Kosovo and Serbia near accord to end ethnic partition
  • Mali troops hunt for rebels after Timbuktu clash
  • Central bank to reopen in Central African Republic after coup
  • Adviser to Libyan PM seized in Tripoli
  • Hamas law promotes gender segregation in Gaza schools

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