The Bombay HC Wednesday asked the Centre to decide on representations filed by two multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) survivors, who have filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directions to the government to allow non-commercial production of Bedaquiline and Delamanid drugs, which are essential for the treatment of MDR-TB and extremely drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing the PIL filed by TB survivor Meera Yadav and NGO Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, run by another survivor, stating that as the drug patents, which are solely with the government, are not available on a regular basis, and is resulting in a break in the treatment regime.
The PIL argued that if the central authorities allow other manufacturers by giving them patents, the problem of shortage would be resolved. It sought directions that the government should issue a compulsory licence. “The compulsory license, once operationalised, shall allow alternate producers to offer more affordable generic versions of the drug to the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) at a far lower price,” the PIL said.
As per the plea, a six-month course of Bedaquiline costs around Rs 26,600 and Delamanid costs up to Rs 91,414 per course, implying that the government would have to shell out huge amounts for the treatment of a single patient being treated under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) – now known as NTEP.
Senior counsel Anand Grover said that as generic drugs are available for Rs 600 to 1,275 per month for both medicines, the government should issue compulsory license so that other manufacturers can get patents and the burden on the government is reduced.
Maintaining that the issue raised by petitioners was of importance, the court said it would keep the PIL pending. “If it is in the interest of public at large, why not take earlier decisions?,” the bench asked the Centre. Asking the Centre to consider and decide on representation, the HC posted further hearing on April 28.