In 2003, the Patent Office in Chennai (formerly Madras), India, awarded temporary exclusive marketing rights (EMR) for the commercialization of the cancer drug Imatinib Mesylate (Glivec®) to the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. This led to a halt in production of generic equivalents in India. Since generic versions costing one-tenth as much as Glivec® could no longer be sold, thousands of patients worldwide lost access to an affordable drug that delays the advancement of leukemia.
In January 2006, owing to a protest by the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), the Chennai Patent Office denied Novartis patent application for Glivec®, and at the same time canceled the EMR. The production of generics could therefore restart. Novartis opposes the decision, and is doing everything it can to regain the EMR. It has filed two patent suits: one against the Patent Office's decision, an