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In brief: Drug maker loses India patent battle

Mon., April 1, 2013

NEW DELHI – India’s Supreme Court today rejected drug maker Novartis AG’s right to patent a new version of a cancer drug in a landmark decision that health care activists say ensures the poor will get continued access to cheap, generic versions of lifesaving medicines.

Novartis had argued that it needed a new patent to protect its investment in the cancer drug Glivec while activists said the company was trying to use loopholes to make more money out of a drug whose patent had expired.

The cheap medicines produced by India’s $26 billion generic drug industry are a lifeline for the poor in many developing countries.

The ruling sets a precedent that will prevent international pharmaceutical companies from obtaining fresh patents in India on updated versions of existing drugs, said Pratibha Singh, a lawyer for the Indian generic drug manufacturer Cipla.

Novartis has fought a legal battle in India since 2006 for a fresh patent for its leukemia drug Gleevec, known in India and Europe as Glivec.

Parliament meets in North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea – After weeks of war-like rhetoric, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gathered legislators today for an annual spring parliamentary session taking place one day after top party officials adopted a statement declaring building nuclear weapons and the economy the nation’s top priorities.

The meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly follows near-daily threats from Pyongyang, including vows of nuclear strikes on South Korea and the U.S.

On Sunday, Kim and top party officials adopted a declaration calling nuclear weapons the “the nation’s life” and an important component of its defense, an asset that wouldn’t be traded even for “billions of dollars.”

BEIRUT – Residents of a Kurdish neighborhood in the Syrian city of Aleppo fled Sunday under government shelling estimated at three shells per minute, activists said.

The bombardment on the Sheikh Maqsood district came two days after opposition fighters said they seized the strategic neighborhood. Residents were told to leave as government troops fought to regain parts of the district, said Riyad Islam, an activist with the Aleppo Media Center.


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