Pharmaceutical company Cipla has temporarily discontinued exports of its brand Duovir to Ghana, following Glaxo Wellcome's allegations of patent violation.
Cipla's whole-time director Amar Lulla confirmed that the UK-based Glaxo Wellcome had written to Cipla in August this year suggesting that it stop exports of Duovir, a brand containing anti-viral drugs lamivudine and zidovudine, to Ghana as both drugs were under patent to Glaxo
The two anti-viral drugs are given to patients suffering from the Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, which has reached epidemic proportions in Africa.
The African continent is currently a hotbed of controversy and debate on whether manufacturers other than patent holders should be given licenses by the government to mass-produce AIDS drugs at lower costs.
For instance, Cipla is able to manufacture these drugs in India where there are no product patent laws yet and export them at a fraction of the price at which the drug's Innovators sell them elsewhere in the world.
Glaxo Wellcome, in a letter to Cipla dated August 10, 2000 said, Glaxo Group Limited has exclusive rights under the following patents that cover lamivudine and zidovudine formulations in Ghana: AP11, AP136, AP162, AP3000. Importation of Duovir into Ghana by Cipla or any of its affiliates represents an infringement of our Company's exclusive patent rights.
Lulla said Cipla had replied to Glaxo contesting the claim. The company says certain patent applications were filed prior to 1993 and the law of the land does not allow such patents to be enforceable.
However, in the meantime, it has discontinued exports worth approximately $16,000, and is awaiting the Ghana government's decision on the issue. Lulla said Glaxo had not taken any action against Cipla so far.
Source: http://www.economictimes.com/today/03econ05.htm (3 November 2000)