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Economic Times : New book raises affordability concerns of chemotherapy drugs in cancer treatment

19Oct 2022

New Delhi: A new book titled ‘Impact of patents on chemotherapy drugs in the treatment of cancer’ has brought to the fore the concern relating to the affordability of chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancer. The book, in two volumes, has been compiled and edited by Dr KV Swaminathan, Former Controller General, Patents, Designs & Trademarks and Past Chairman, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre (RGCI). Besides an overview of cancer and intellectual property rights (IPR) issues, the book profiles major pharma companies and chemotherapy drugs, patent status abroad and in India, and areas of interest from India’s point of view.

“The book discusses an important yet not very widely understood complex area. Research is expensive. Cost of which has to be recovered in the form of the price of the drug. But that takes it beyond a vast majority of our people leading to a lot of acrimony and dispute. Dr Swaminathan has beautifully combined his knowledge of intellectual property rights (IPR) and cancer treatment methodologies,” said Rakesh Chopra, Chairman, RGCIRC while releasing the book.

The book is immensely relevant to the medical fraternity. Cancer has been a dreaded word and chemotherapy with its side effects has been adding to the dread quotient. With the introduction of newer medicines and innovations, the toxicity levels of chemotherapy have come down and people can withstand the adverse effects very well. Newer developments such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and precision therapies have come much to the betterment of the patients. However, the development of new drugs for which pharma companies invest billions of dollars makes affordability an important issue, said DS Negi, CEO, RGCIRC.

On the occasion, Dr Swaminathan said, “Rapid advances that have taken place in the field of chemotherapy have made this mode of treatment all the more important. The survival rates after detection have improved significantly. However, there are still problems with the affordability of newer drugs for a common cancer patient. One of the reasons attributed to the high cost of the new chemotherapy drugs is the intellectual property protection a new drug enjoys. At the same time without such patent protection, it is unlikely that the drug companies would be in a position to invest the very large amounts required in developing newer cancer treatments. Many countries in the world, as well as several multilateral organisations, have examined this problem and come to some understanding in the matter of restraining the use of patents to ensure fair accessibility and affordability”

Dr Vineet Talwar, Director, Medical Oncology, RGCIRC who introduced the book stated the book makes a case for making chemotherapy drugs affordable in India. Patents make the drugs frightfully expensive and that has a lot of implications for a price-sensitive market like India with health insurance coverage of merely 10 per cent. Either one shells out a large amount of money or is bereft of the benefits of new drugs. Intellectual property rights need to be tweaked in a developing country such as India to make the drugs affordable for a wide set of patients, Dr Talwar added.

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