Novartis withdraws patent claim on leukaemia treatment

Novartis has aborted its latest patent filing at the European Patent Office. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has backed down in a patent dispute over the leukaemia therapy Kymriah following opposition from NGOs.

This content was published on December 16, 2019 - 12:06

The Swiss NGO Public Eye is claiming victory in the European Patent OfficeExternal link battle, but Novartis says the patent in question was only one of several it has in place on the (CAR)-T cell therapy treatment it had developed together with the University of Pennsylvania.

Public Eye says the therapy costs CHF370,000 ($376,000), which it claims amounts to “abusive” commercial exploitation. It launched its challenge to the patentExternal link, along with Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), earlier this year.

“This volte-face confirms that the patent should never have been granted in the first place, given that the underlying technology is not novel. It also questions the validity of other patents on Kymriah and weakens the monopoly position of the Swiss giant in future price reviews,” Public Eye statedExternal link on hearing of the patent withdrawal on Monday.

Novartis says that Kymriah is “covered by several patents” that protect the cost of the innovation it put into the cell therapy treatment – not just the one that has been withdrawn.

“Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania strongly believe in the importance of intellectual property rights as an incentive for ground-breaking innovation such as Kymriah. However, both parties agreed that the opposed patent is not critical to the continued development and marketing of Kymriah and the decision has therefore been taken to withdraw the opposed patent,” Novartis said in an emailed statement to

Public Eye said that while Novartis’s position has been weakened, the “victory does not end the monopoly of this treatment as Kymriah is still protected by other patents.”

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