Vasella questioned at the General Meeting in Basel about Novartis legal action against India

Lausanne, Zurich, 06.03.2007 - At Novartis General Meeting today, the Berne Declaration will urge Dr. Vasella, to drop Novartis legal action against India, which threathens access to affordable generic medicines for millions of poor people in developing countries. The Berne Declaration with Oxfam will urge attending shareholders to make the same request to the company. Moreover investors are starting to question Novartis policy on the issue.

Concerns about Novartis legal action in India is being raised by investors too.
Dan Rosan from the US-based Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), an association of 275 faith- based institutional investors, states: “Novartis has substantially invested in neglected disease research, policy development, and stakeholder engagement, differentiating itself from the rest of the pharmaceutical industry. Now, their actions in this case are undermining that record … Novartis’ legal tactics in this case have raised the stakes higher than the several thousand Indian patients relying on Glivec, to involve the millions of people kept alive today by generic AIDS drugs from India.”

“Novartis are threatening their own future profits as well as access to medicines – putting at risk their reputation in key emerging markets and undermining public acceptance of the intellectual property regime on which pharmaceutical profits depend.” says Alex van der Velden from FairPensions, the British campaign for responsible investment.

Julien Reinhard from the Berne Declaration will intervene at today Novartis Annual General Meeting, to raise the issue directly to Dr. Vasella. The Berne Declaration with Oxfam will distribute material to attending shareholders urging them to do what is in their power in order that Novartis drops its legal action against India.

Julien Reinhard, Berne Declaration: "The Novartis case in India goes beyond the case of anticancer medicine Glivec® because its directly challenge an internationally recognized public health safeguard. This has far beyond India alone. The concerns expressed all over the world by NGOs, individuals and personalities like former President of the Swiss Confederation Ruth Dreifuss or South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, deserve to be taken seriously by the company. It is time for Novartis to show corporate responsibility by droping its case in India."

Celine Charveriat, Oxfam International: “It is difficult to see how a company which prides itself on its philanthropy in the developing world can at the same time be engaged in a lawsuit which would undermine access to affordable medicines. Novartis has apparently not learned the lessons from the 2001 South Africa case, when big Pharma sued the South African government for trying to uphold public health and was forced to back down.”