The Indian patent office denied a drug patent application by U.S. pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories for the combination of lopinavir/ritonavir over the weekend, stating that the patenting was “not an invention.” The drug combination is a protease inhibitor used as a second line regimen to treat patients with HIV, and the patent denial opens the door for generic marketing and manufacturing of low-cost versions of the drug in India.
India is considered the world’s leading supplier of affordable generics, allowing developing countries to access life-saving medications for much less than would be possible by purchasing brand-name drugs.
Abbott produces the tablet drug combination under the name Kaletra.
“Cost-savings generated over a three-year period by introducing generic lopinavir/ritonavir to 43 low- and middle-income countries would be sufficient to start 130,000 new patients on HIV treatment who currently lack access,” according to a press release from the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK). I-MAK initiated legal action against Abbott for what it called “gaming the patent system.”