The Union Budget 2010-11…the issue of improving access to healthcare…encouraging innovation… and beyond

The Primary role of the pharmaceutical industry in India, like in many other countries of the world, is to make significant contribution to the healthcare objectives of the nation by meeting the needs of the ailing patients through improved access to modern medicines.

This role could be fulfilled primarily in the three following ways through Public Private Partnership initiatives:

1. By improving the healthcare infrastructure and the healthcare delivery systems
2. By creating a favorable echo system for developing newer innovative medicines through R&D initiatives in the country
3. By taking policy measures towards a robust healthcare financing system for all strata of our society

Improving access to modern medicines:

In the Union Budget 2010–11, the Finance Minister has proposed an increase in allocation towards healthcare from Rs. 19,354 Crore to Rs. 22,300 Crore. It is expected that a significant part of this increased allocation will be utilized in improving healthcare infrastructure and delivery systems, in the country.

Moreover, extension of ‘Tax Holiday’ for hospitals set-up in rural areas from 5 to 10 years, is expected to encourage development of rural healthcare infrastructure. The Finance Minister has also proposed that ‘Tax Holiday’ will be available for hospitals set-up even outside rural areas.

The proposal for extension of health insurance to NREGA beneficiaries is also expected to have a positive impact in improving access to modern medicines within this sector of the population.

It is my strong belief that currently, improving access to healthcare in general and medicines in particular along with encouraging innovation, should be the top-priorities of our policy makers. High incidence of mortality and morbidity burden in a country like ours can only be addressed through such priority measures. It is believed that Indian Pharmaceutical Industry would always remain committed to actively support all such efforts from all corners to help achieving this objective.

Encouraging innovation:

The budgetary proposal of enhancement of scope of weighted deduction on expenditure incurred on in-house R&D to 200% and the same on payments made to national laboratories, research associations, colleges, universities and other institutions for scientific research to 175%, are welcome steps.

However, in my view only the above steps are not adequate enough to properly encourage innovation within the country. Ongoing efforts in Research & Development (R&D) would require a robust national policy environment that would encourage, protect and reward innovation. Improving healthcare environment in partnership with the Government remains a priority for the pharmaceutical industry in India.

Despite progress made over the past decades in developing new medicines for some acute and chronic illnesses by both the Indian pharmaceutical companies and R&D organizations, innovation, like in other developed countries, still remains critically important in the continuous and ever complex battle between disease and good health in India.

Other encouraging budget proposals:

The following proposals of the Finance Minister are also expected to benefit the Industry:

- An annual Health Survey to prepare the District Health Profile of all districts in 2010-11

- Uniform concessional basic duty of 5% for all medical appliances and exemption of import duty from specified inputs for the manufacture of orthopedic implants, are good initiatives.

- Reduction of Corporate surcharge from 10% to 7.5%, though corporate Minimum Alternate Tax has gone up to 18%

- Tax incentives for the business of setting up and operating “Cold Chain” infrastructure, which is an integral part in the logistics for vaccines and many biotech products

- Under section 10B, extension of sunset clause is expected to benefit the Export Oriented Units (EOUs)

Adverse impact on affordability:

Some steps taken in the Union budget may have major impact on the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry, which are as follows:

• Goods and Service Tax (GST) coming in April 1, 2011 and Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) hiked to 18% could prompt restructuring of ‘supply chain’ of many companies

• Increase in fuel prices and withdrawal of ‘Service Tax’ exemption on transportation of goods by rail, could make pharmaceutical products more expensive.

The Union Budget 2010–11, which has been largely hailed as a good budget across the industry, unfortunately does not propose much in terms of major fiscal and policy measures for the pharmaceutical industry.


Be that as it may, going beyond the budgetary expectations, the pharmaceutical industry in India should keep focusing on good corporate governance. This encompasses adherence to high ethical standards in clinical trials and in promotion of medicines, regulatory and legal compliance, being harsh on corrupt practices, addressing all issues that support good healthcare policies of the Government and takes care of the healthcare needs of the common man through inclusive business growth.

It is obvious that the Pharmaceutical Industry alone will have a limited role to play to address all the healthcare issues of the country. Important stakeholders like the Government, Corporates and the civil society in general must contribute according to their respective abilities, obligations and enlightened societal interests, towards this direction.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

Recent Bayer Case Judgment: Patent Linkage: Encouraging Innovation in India

Delhi High Court turned down the request of Bayer Corporation in August 18, 2009 to link patent status of its kidney cancer drug Nexavar (sorefenib tosylate) with the marketing approval of the generic equivalent of the same patented molecule manufactured by Cipla, during the patent life of Nexavar in India.Bayer received an Indian patent for Nexavar in March 2008, which is one of the potential blockbuster drugs of Bayer Corporation and is expected to clock an annual global sales turnover of around U.S $1 billion soon.In this particular case, Bayer argued that an approval for its generic equivalent from Cipla would infringe on their patent.

The interim and the final judgment of the Delhi High Court:

Honorable Delhi High Court granted an interim injunction in response to the petition filed by Bayer Corporation and refrained the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) from granting marketing approval of the generic version of sorefenib tosylate of Cipla, until the final order is passed by the Court.

In its final judgment, the Delhi High Court ruled that Bayer should not have brought this case to the honorable court as the drug regulation is not linked to patent rights in India.

Further, the court could not, “conclude that unpatented drugs are spurious drugs” and said, “this court is constrained to observe that the present litigation was what may be categorized as speculative foray, and attempt to ‘tweak” public policies through court mandated regimes.”

Besides, the honorable Court has asked the Bayer Corporation to pay Rs 6.75 lakh to the Government and Cipla as legal costs.

Will this High Court ruling encourage more such incidence in India?

Some experts feel that the Delhi High Court ruling may encourage generic pharmaceutical companies to launch generic versions of patented drugs in India despite the risk of paying damages, if patent infringement is proved in a court of law.

Keeping all these in view, let us now discuss the relevance of Patent Linkage in India.

What really is a patent linkage?

The process of Patent Linkage establishes a desirable communication process between the Health Ministry and the Patent Offices to prevent marketing approval of generic drugs before expiration of patents granted in India.

It also ensures that one Government Department / Ministry does not impair the efforts of another Government Department / Ministry to provide effective intellectual property protection as required by Article 28 of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

However, the generic companies argue that the role of the DCGI is restricted to regulating safety and efficacy of the drugs, whereas ascertaining patent status of products fall within the ambit of Indian Patent Offices. Thus these two cannot be linked.

The argument in favour of a robust Patent Linkage system:

1. WTO TRIPS Article 28.1a says that the member countries agree to ensure exclusive rights to patent holder for a specific time period. In case of India, like most other countries, this time period is for 20 years.

2. During this period the member countries agree to prevent third parties from making, using, offering for sale the patented product without the owner’s consent.

3. In India there is no known strong deterrent for patent infringement. In absence of which, the opportunity to make significant commercial gain through patent infringement, on the pretext of extending benefits to patients could indeed be, many a times, difficult to resist.

4. Media reports that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has raised huge demand in crores of rupees for overcharging the common man, flouting the drug pricing norms, by some of these large companies involved in patent infringement litigations, vindicates the point of their basic overall intention of significant commercial gain over extending pricing benefits to the common man.

Who is responsible to ensure the sanctity of the product patent system in India?

1. The prevailing situation warrants a strong regulatory system, which could prohibit marketing approval of generic equivalents of patented molecules during their patent period.

2. The question that is often raised in this context is who exactly be held responsible for implementation of such a system in our country? While addressing this question one should realize that it is the Government in its entirety and not just the Patent offices or any particular ministry or ministries of the Governments is bound by the WTO TRIPS Agreement. Therefore, it is justifiably the responsibility of all Government departments/ministries to ensure that TRIPS obligations of the Government on proper enforcement of patent are properly met.

3. The process of granting marketing approval for patented molecules, in general, rests on the Ministry of Health (MoH) of WTO member states. Thus for WTO member states to meet TRIPS obligations effective communication between the MoH and the Patent offices of the country is absolutely essential. Such a system will help prevent approval of generic versions of patented molecules before expiration of the product patents.

4. Establishing this communication process will ensure that one department/ministry of the Government (say DCGI) does not impair the efforts of another Government department/ministry (say IPOs) to provide effective intellectual property protection as articulated in Article 28.1 of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

5. This system will ensure that Health Regulatory Authorities do not, even unintentionally, undermine the commitment of the Government to conform to the TRIPS Agreement.

Will India be the unique country if such a system of “Patent Linkage” is put in place?

The answer is obviously ‘no’. The system of Patent Linkage exists around the world.

Following are some examples:

Australia – Health Authorities do not provide marketing approval for a generic copy which would infringe an existing patent.

Brazil – As of 2006, no copies of products still under patent have been launched in the market place. However, the Brazilian Health Agency (ANVISA), grants registration to copy products, based only on the merits of the case from the regulatory point of view, whether or not a patent has been granted for the same.

Canada – Health Regulatory Authorities do not provide marketing approval for pharmaceutical products protected by patents listed in the equivalent of the US FDA Orange Book.

China – The State Food & Drugs Administration (SFDA) must be satisfied that no patent is being infringed before it will issue marketing approval. If there has been litigation over a patent, SFDA will wait until the appeals process has been exhausted before acting.

Jordan – Marketing approval for a pharmaceutical product is not permitted during the period of patent protection.

Mexico – Applicants seeking marketing approval for generic pharmaceutical products in Mexico must certify that their patent rights are not infringed. The Health Regulatory Authorities then check with the Patent Office, which must respond within ten days to confirm whether a patent is involved. While Health Authorities will accept an application of marketing approval during the patent period, grant of marketing approval will be delayed until the patent expires.

Singapore – Applicants seeking marketing approval for generic pharmaceutical products in Singapore must declare that the application does not infringe any patent.

U.A.E – The Health Regulatory Authorities do not provide marketing approval for pharmaceutical products that remain under patent protection in the country.

U.S.A – U.S. FDA maintains a listing of pharmaceutical products known as the Orange Book. The Electronic Orange Book is also available via the internet at: The U.S. FDA does not authorize the marketing approval for a generic copy of a pharmaceutical product protected by a patent listed in the Orange Book.

Europe – Instead of Patent Linkage, the period of data exclusivity is for 10/11 years.

The Patent Linkage System is in progress in countries like Bahrain, Chile, Dominican Republic – Central America FTA (DR-CAFTA), Morocco and Oman.


I therefore submit the following recommendations to ensure proper enforcement of products patent in India:

 The status of the grant of patent should be reviewed, through appropriate drug regulatory mechanism, before granting marketing permission to generic formulations and if the concerned innovative product is already patented in India, marketing permission for the generic formulation should be withheld.

 Appropriate mechanism/system should soon be worked out in co-ordination with other Ministries to avoid cases of infringement of product patents in India.

 The procedure (Patent Linkage) of checking the patent status of a product before granting marketing approval already exists in the Form 44. This procedure needs to be effectively implemented soon to encourage innovation in India.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.