Pharma News, National (Mumbai), August 23:-India has granted Pfizer Inc. a patent for its powerful pneumonia vaccine Prevenar 13, in a blow to some health groups that said this would put the treatment out of reach of thousands in poorer nations.
The decision by India’s patent office bars other companies from making cheaper copies of the vaccine and allows Pfizer to exclusively sell it in India until 2026.
It’s a big victory for the United States (US) drug maker in a market that has the world’s largest number of pneumonia cases, a lung disease that kills nearly a million children a year globally. The decision also has international implications as several poorer nations rely on India’s robust drugs industry to supply cheaper copies of medicines and vaccines.
It also comes at a time of ongoing US pressure on India to tighten its patent laws. The United States Trade Representative expressed concerns about India’s intellectual property laws in a report in June, and listed it among countries whose IP laws unfairly favour local companies.
Pfizer’s vaccine protects children and adults from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria and a full vaccination course costs about USD 170 on India’s private market.
India started giving out the vaccine for free under its national immunisation program earlier this year, but the rollout like that of most vaccines in the program, is in phases, so only about 2.1 million of the 25 million eligible people in the country will get it this year.
The patent grant means Indian companies won’t be able to make the vaccine for domestic use or exports.
“Manufacturers will have to find new routes to develop a non-infringing (pneumonia) vaccine,” the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a statement. MSF filed an objection to Pfizer’s patent request last year.
At least one Indian firm, Panacea Biotec Ltd., is developing a cheaper form of the vaccine, and had also filed against Pfizer’s request.
-(NAV, Inputs: Agencies)