Final arguments will be presented this week in what could prove to be a landmark case regarding the country’s attitude towards drug patents.

The case, which is being heard at India’s Supreme Court, sees Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company Novartis protest against a decision made by India’s patent office to refuse the company patent protection over its cancer drug Glivec.

India’s patent office argues that it is not a new medicine, but an amended version of a known compound. Supporters of the patent office’s stance claim that any patent awarded to the company would jeopardise the supply of cheaper generic medicines whilst securing high prices for drugs protected by patents.

The final hearing will begin on Wednesday 22 August 2012, and is expected to last several weeks.

It is the latest in a number of contentious issues that have pitted Indian authorities against multinational pharmaceutical firms operating within the country. In March 2012, India issued a compulsory license to a local firm enabling them to produce generic copies of Bayer AG’s cancer drug Nexavar, claiming the price made it unaffordable for many patients.

Issues surrounding patent protection are beginning to change the minds of Big Pharma companies that had previously considered India to be a market of great potential. Although the nation’s growing economy and drug needs could prove lucrative, a lack of protection over intellectual property has led to many companies approaching India with caution.

Other cases are also waiting to be heard, with Gilead Sciences appealing against a rejection of its HIV/AIDS medication Viread, and Roche Holding hoping to protect its cancer drug Tarceva from generic competition.