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In a dramatic move, the Colombian health minister plans to unilaterally force Novartis to lower the price for its Gleevec cancer medicine after more than two weeks of talks over a price cut went nowhere, according to reports and sources in Colombia.

In public comments today, Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria said he will declare a lower price for the widely used cancer medicine as being in the public interest because it would save the country needed health dollars. Under this scenario, Novartis would be obligated to sell Gleevec at the new price, although he did not specify what that might be.


However, Gaviria stopped short of pursuing a compulsory license, which would have allowed the government to sidestep the Novartis patent for the drug so that generic companies could make lower-cost versions. Such a move is permitted under World Trade Organization rules. The current patent for the Novartis drug expires in 2018.

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  • I believe the government is proceeding on a compulsory license, but will abandon the compulsory licensing effort if and only if Novartis cuts the price of Gleevec. There are generic versions of the drug registered in Colombia, but Novartis as threatened to sue the generic companies for infringing their patents, which is why the compulsory license has been an issue.

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