Drug maker loses landmark patent battle

NEW DELHI - A lawyer for healthcare activists says India's Supreme Court has rejected drug maker Novartis AG's right to patent a new version of a lifesaving cancer drug.

The landmark ruling Monday is a victory for India's $26 billion generic drug industry that provides cheap medicines to millions around the world.

The ruling is a precedent that prevents international pharmaceutical companies from obtaining fresh patents in India on updated versions of existing drugs.

Lawyer Anand Grover said such a ruling would help poor people get access to affordable, generic versions of lifesaving medicines.

Novartis has fought a legal battle in India since 2006 for a fresh patent for a leukemia drug.

India's patent office had rejected the company's patent application because it was not a new medicine.

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