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Total domination: Merck sues Indian generic drug company to halt competition for lucrative diabetes drug market

Tuesday, July 02, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: generic drugs, diabetes, Merck lawsuits

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(NaturalNews) The second most populated country in the world, India, has become a vicious battleground for competing interests within the pharmaceutical industry that are trying to gain control of the drug market. And one of the latest legal feuds has been initiated by U.S.-based drug giant Merck & Co., creator of the infamous Gardasil vaccine for HPV, which recently sued an Indian manufacturer of generic drugs for allegedly infringing on its diabetes drug patents.

Reuters reports that Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), a foreign unit of Merck, recently won an injunction against India-based Aprica Pharmaceuticals, which had planned to begin manufacturing generic versions of two diabetes drugs originally developed by Merck. Merck claims it owns the patents on the two drugs in question, which it refused to publicly name, and that Aprica was attempting to violate the company's intellectual property rights by manufacturing generic alternatives.

Other sources have since revealed the two drugs to be Januvia and Janumet, both of which are prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. And the specific drug compound in question is sitagliptin, which MSD claims it holds a patent in India. According to reports, MSD has thus far been successful in blocking Aprica from producing any generic drugs containing this compound.

"MSD confirms that we have received an ex-parte injunction against Aprica Pharmaceuticals," wrote an MSD spokesperson in an emailed statement to Reuters reporters.

A Delhi High Court reportedly issued the injunction on June 17, which bars Aprica from launching its own drug product containing sitagliptin. In his ruling, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva made the statement that allowing Aprica to use the compound would result in "irreparable loss and injury" for MSD, and of the type that "cannot be compensated in terms of money."

Adding to this, Justice Sachdeva warned Aprica to restrain from "selling, distributing, advertising, exporting, offering for sale and in any other manner, directly or indirectly, dealing in any product" that involves sitagliptin. This means Merck will be able to maintain its monopoly on the growing diabetes drug market in India, which currently treats some 65 million people.

Litigation gone wild as drug companies greedily sue each other for billions

Other generic drug manufacturers have been targeted by the big boys in recent days as well. MSD recently sued India-based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, for instance, for trying to manufacture generic varieties of the same two drugs that Aprica had tried to manufacture. And Pfizer recently won a dispute against Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, which agreed to pay $550 million in out-of-court settlement fees for attempting to produce a cheaper generic variety of the stomach acid drug Protonix.

However, a recent ruling by India's Supreme Court with regards to a case involving Switzerland-based drug giant Novartis may have set a new precedent in this matter. As reported by the Washington Post, the court struck down efforts by Novartis to patent one of its older cancer drugs, Glivec, asserting that the drug fails to pass the test of "invention and patentability." As a result, other drug companies will have a much harder time trying to abuse India's patent system.

"The verdict means that India can actually have safeguards against abusive patenting practices like evergreening, where companies keep seeking patents for the same drugs using arguments like new dosage and pediatric versions," Leena Menghaney, an Indian campaign manager for Doctors Without Borders, is quoted as saying to the Washington Post. "Indian companies will now have the freedom to produce cheaper drugs without fear of constant lawsuits from Western pharma companies."

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