Advocacy groups want remdesivir to be distributed more fairly to coronavirus patients around the world.
New Delhi: Two health advocacy groups have written to the Indian government asking it to rescind patents given to Gilead Sciences for the drug remdesivir so it can be distributed more fairly to coronavirus patients around the world, particularly in poorer nations.
Drug patents in India are an important issue as many countries depend on generic drugmakers to make and sell cheaper versions of critical drugs to them. Gilead's three patents in India for remdesivir stem from 2009 when the drug was in development to treat Ebola.
Remdesivir is the only drug approved to treat Covid-19 patients after promising early trial results prompted US regulators to grant emergency use authorisation on May 2.
To expand its access, Gilead said this week it had signed non-exclusive licensing pacts here with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.
But health access groups say the pacts mean cheaper forms of the drug may not become available in nations seen as non-profitable to the five drugmakers.
"The licences divide the global market into two and profitable markets are retained with Gilead and less profitable markets are given to the five generic companies," said K. Gopakumar, senior legal researcher at Third World Network, which sent a letter to the Indian government on Wednesday.
The letter by Third World Network, a Malaysia-based non-profit group, followed a similar appeal by India's Cancer Patients Aid Association last week.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders has also opposed Gilead's patents on remdesivir.