Sunday, October 28, 2012

Govt Revokes Avesthagen’s Jamun Patent

We are very well aware about how India has successfully combated for neem and haldi patents in the U.S and Europe. But it has now woken up to the problem in its own backyard when it has to scrap a jamun patent given to an Indian firm, Avesthagen (drug maker).

The Indian Patent office had granted a patent to Avesthagen, an Indian drug maker firm, for a diabetes medicine made from the extract of jamun, lavangpatti and chundun.

Grounds of Revocation:
The government has revoked the patent using a “rarest of rare” provision in the Patents Act saying it was an “integral part” of traditional medicine. It has said that the patent was “mischievous to the state and generally prejudicial to the public” as the treatment was an “integral part” of ayurveda, unani and siddha system of medicine.

Defendant’s Stand:
Defending the patent the company argued that the extracts, which work individually in managing diabetes, had an aggressive effect when combined. In addition, it used an approach that is “innovative, novel and scientific” in developing a formulation and screened it for efficacy and safety using modern technology. It has also argued that the patent was not prejudicial to public interest as it would support Indian farmers, from whom the plants would be sourced, and provide employment to people.

Future Outcomes:
While the problem seems to have been dealt with at least for the moment, there could be more in store as the government has discovered that there are at least four or five similar instances of patents given to medicines over the last five years or so that have been “developed” using commonly used plants and fruits, ranging from amla, methi, karela and ashswangandha.

The present patent controversy is proving to be a major embarrassment, given that India has for long fought for protecting traditional knowledge and genetic resources and sought to check piracy of ayurvedic and other traditional forms of medicine. What is even more curious is how the Indian Patents Office gave the protection after the government had successfully got European authorities to turn down the application two years ago. The government has put all such patents under scanner and there would be more patents revocations at offing.

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