Submit list of breast cancer patients: Kerala HC urges Centre

Kochi: On a plea that sought, among other things, compulsory licensing of the life-saving breast cancer drug, Ribociclib, the Kerala High Court has directed the Central government to collect data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) about the people suffering from different types of breast cancer.

Even though the petitioner, who suffered from breast cancer later succumbed to her disease during the pendency of the petition, the Court took cognisance of the larger issue of the high cost of the drug. Following this the Court appointed the petitioner's counsel, Advocate Maitreyi Hegde as amicus curiae in the matter. It was based on her request for the data that the court passed the present interim order.

"Since it is an innocuous prayer sought for by the Amicus Curiae in the larger public interest, there will be a direction to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to collect the details from the sixth respondent and submit a report before this court within one month," the interim order stated.

The petitioner was diagnosed with HER2- negative metastatic breast cancer and was undergoing targeted therapy when she approached the court raising the issue of the price of Ribociclib which costs nearly Rs 58,140. At present, Ribociclib enjoys a patent monopoly and its manufacturers are prevented from producing the medicine without the consent of the patent holder, Novartis.

The petitioner had said that the government can invoke Section 92 of the Patents Act, 1970, which provides for a compulsory license, and Section 100 which empowers the government to requisition life-saving medicines in cases of extreme necessity.

The inaction by the government in providing access to medication infringes upon the Right to Health guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and violates the directive principles of state policy which impose an obligation on the government to ensure public health, it was contended.

(With inputs from IANS)

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