Bayer loses cancer drug patent fight in India

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Bayer has failed in a long-running battle to prevent a cheap generic of its cancer drug Nexavar in India.

The German drug maker was dealt a setback when the country's Supreme Court upheld a compulsory license allowing India generics maker Natco Pharma to sell a low cost version, Reuters reports.

Bayer has been fighting the generic for some time-- Reuters notes that India's patent office gave Natco the OK to approve a generic in 2012, the first time the country invoked the use of a compulsory license. The news service notes that countries can issue the licenses on drugs that would otherwise be unaffordable to a large segment of their populations, under a global Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement.

As the drugmaker told Reuters it is contemplating next steps, an Indian human rights group has hailed the decision as having wide implications for access to affordable medicines, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Western drug makers, Pfizer, Roche and Merck among them, have lost patent rights on top-sellers in India as contentious debate swirls around the country's regulation of patent rights.

Patent holders however received promising news this week as well; the health ministry has found little merit in a plea by India generic maker Cipla for issuance of a compulsory license that would waive the patent rights on five Novartis drugs, the Journal reports, citing The Financial Times.

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