Mumbai, 23 March 2023 – Today, the 2019 patent challenge by two tuberculosis (TB) survivors, Nandita Venkatesan and Phumeza Tisile, was successful: the Indian Patent Office rejected the US pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) attempt to extend its monopoly in India on the TB drug bedaquiline beyond the primary patent’s expiry this July. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomed this as a significant step toward increasing access to the lifesaving TB drug.
Indian patent law does not allow evergreening of patents and prevents pharmaceutical corporations from abusing the patent system through making minor changes that can further extend their 20-year drug monopolies. Such evergreening practises are explicitly prohibited in the Indian patent system through a health safeguard—Section 3(d).
Moving forward, J&J must not block the supply of more affordable generic versions of bedaquiline to high TB burden countries and stand by its 2019 statement from the Managing Director in India of Janssen (J&J’s pharmaceutical division), that generic manufacturers will be able to make generic versions of bedaquiline starting in 2023. This means that the US corporation should also urgently withdraw its patents in other countries, including high TB burden countries, where the equivalent of the Indian patent application still remains.