India prime minister

A patent appeals board in India has rejected Bayer AG’s appeal to pull a generic version of its cancer drug Nexavar from the market.

In March last year, the government allowed local drug maker Natco Pharma to make and sell the drug for $175 for a month’s dose, bringing down the original price by 97%.

The ruling set a precedent for more efforts by Indian firms to push for more compulsory licenses.

In its appeal, Bayer, Germany’s largest drug maker, said the license should be revoked as a generic form of Nexavar is already sold by Cipla and therefore there is already a low-cost version available.

But the board dismissed the petition on Monday, stating that the kidney and liver cancer drug should be available at an affordable price.

Bayer said in a statement that it will continue to fight for an overturn of the decision.

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“The challenges faced by the Indian healthcare system have little or nothing to do with patents on pharmaceutical products as all products on India’s essential drug list are not patented,” the company said.

Natco began selling the drug in April last year and have taken about Rs140m before December, the firm’s finance director Bhaskar Narayana told the Economic Times of India.

Image: Last year, the Indian government allowed Natco Pharma to sell a generic version of Nexavar for a fraction of the price. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pictured. Image: Courtesy of World Economic Forum.