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MSF and Pfizer battle over patent application for life-saving pneumonia vaccine

Saturday, Jul 30, 2016

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, on Friday argued against US drug giant Pfizer's application to patent its pneumonia vaccine at the Indian patent office. Pfizer's vaccine, sold under the brand Prevnar13, should not be patented in the country because it lacks the originality needed for one, argued the aid agency.

MSF filed declarations at the Delhi patent office to point out that Pfizer's 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) was obvious and predictable.

While PCV13 was a technical advancement for the US pharmaceutical company, the technology used to create the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is already in the public domain, argued Leena Menghaney, head of MSF's Access campaign in South Asia.

"The fact is that the advancement was predictable and obvious and doesn't deserve a patent," Menghaney told ET.

The patent office will continue to hear MSF's arguments, including its response to submissions made by Pfizer's lawyers, on August 5.

MSF's patent opposition, filed in March this year, is the first pre-grant opposition that the aid agency has initiated against any company. An equivalent patent to the one opposed in India was revoked by the European patent office in 2014 and is currently under appeal process, according to the agency.

Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in children, killing close to one million each year. According to MSF, a patent grant would prevent several children in developing countries from accessing the life-saving vaccine.

Pfizer's blockbuster PCV13 is currently priced around Rs4,500 per dose in India and three doses of the vaccine are needed for each child, said Menghaney. "This is one of the most expensive humanitarian products that we are buying," she said.

A patent grant would also prevent the entry of products developed by Indian producers like Serum Institute and Panacea Biotech, which could make the vaccine as affordable as $6 (Rs400) per child for all three doses, said MSF.

Right now, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, offers PCV13 at the lowest price—$10 (Rs670) per child. At the same time, this is only to a select few developing countries and India may soon have to bear the cost of the vaccine on its own, said Menghaney.

When contacted, a Pfizer spokesperson said: "Pfizer remains committed to protecting its intellectual property rights and the patent for Prevenar/Prevnar 13 has been granted in many countries around the world. This matter is currently in litigation and it is therefore not appropriate for us to comment. However, we assure you that our priority is to make PCV13 available to every child in India. We are committed to finding sustainable solutions and partnerships with all relevant stakeholders to achieve this goal."

 

Source : economictimes.indiatimes.com