Business | Fri Nov 2, 2012 7:23pm IST

Board revokes patent on Roche hepatitis drug

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's patents appeal board has revoked a patent granted to Roche's hepatitis C drug Pegasys, citing a lack of evidence the drug is superior tp existing treatments, and its high price.

The decision is another setback for large pharmaceutical companies in India, which earlier this year granted the first ever compulsory licence to domestic drugmaker Natco (NATP.NS) to sell cheap copies of Bayer AG's(BAYGn.DE) cancer drug Nexavar.

Global drugmakers see India's $12 billion drug market as a huge opportunity, but they are wary of protection for intellectual property in a country where generic medicines account for more than 90 percent of sales.

Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust, an advocacy group for cheaper medicines, challenged the Pegasys patent with the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, saying the drug was costly and gave the Swiss company a monopoly in the market for the drug.

The market price of Pegasys is 436,000 rupees for 48 weeks of treatment, and it is also available at a discounted price of 314,496 rupees, Sankalp said in a statement.

Pegasys is to be taken in combination with another drug, ribavirin, which costs 47,160 rupees for the same period, Sankalp added.

The appeals board on Friday termed Sankalp's plea "valid."

Roche, which can appeal the decision to India's Supreme Court, could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Kaustubh Kulkarni; Editing by Tony Munroe and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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