You are here: Home » Companies » News
Business Standard

India's patent to Pfizer will bar poor's access to pneumonia vaccine abroad

Pfizer's vaccine protects children and adults from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria


New York City Pfizer World Headquarters   Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons
New York City Pfizer World Headquarters Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons

has granted Inc a patent for its powerful pneumonia Prevenar 13, in a blow to some health groups that said this would put the treatment out of reach of thousands in poorer nations.

The decision by India's patent office bars other from making cheaper copies of the and allows to exclusively sell it in until 2026.

It's a big victory for the US drugmaker in a market that has the world's largest number of pneumonia cases, a lung disease that kills nearly a million children a year globally.

The decision also has international implications, as several poorer nations rely on India's robust drugs industry to supply cheaper copies of medicines and vaccines.

It also comes at a time of ongoing US pressure on to tighten its patent laws. The United States Trade Representative expressed concerns about India's intellectual property laws in a report in June, and listed it among countries whose IP laws unfairly favour local

Pfizer's protects children and adults from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, and a full vaccination course costs about $170 on India's private market.

started giving out the for free under its national immunisation program earlier this year, but the rollout like that of most vaccines in the program, is in phases, so only about 2.1 million of the 25 million eligible people in the country will get it this year.

The patent grant means Indian won't be able to make the for domestic use, or exports.

"Manufacturers will have to find new routes to develop a non-infringing (pneumonia) vaccine, which may delay the availability of competing products in the pipeline from Indian producers," the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a statement. 

MSF filed an objection to Pfizer's patent request last year on the grounds that a patent would deprive many developing nations of cheaper copies.

At least one Indian company, Panacea Biotec Ltd, is developing a cheaper form of the vaccine, and had also filed an opposition to Pfizer's patent request last year.

A source familiar with the matter said Panacea is considering filing a post-grant opposition. Separately, MSF said it was reviewing its legal options in the matter.

Pfizer's patent on the same was revoked by the European Patent Office last year, and is being challenged in South Korea and the United States, MSF said.

The pharmaceutical giant has made the available at discounted prices under the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) - an international public-private partnership to improve access to vaccines in the world's poorest countries. More than 50 countries are eligible to procure the through GAVI, according to the organization's website.

Following criticism over the high price of Prevenar 13, reduced the price to non-governmental organisations last November, seeking to protect vulnerable people from illness in humanitarian crises.

welcomed the granting of the patent, saying each dose of Prevenar 13 takes two-and-a-half years to produce, and the was launched in in 2010.

"remains committed towards further enhancing access of this in India, both in the market as well as through partnership with the Government to expand introduction in the public program," a spokeswoman in said.

First Published: Wed, August 23 2017. 14:06 IST