India's Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether the country has the right to refuse a patent to Swiss drug maker Novartis AG for its lifesaving cancer treatment Gleevec.
Aid groups say the outcome could affect India's $20 billion pharmaceutical industry and its ability to provide generic drugs to needy nations at costs far lower than charged by Western manufacturers.
The case revolves around a legal provision aimed at preventing companies from seeking patents based on minor changes to existing treatments. Novartis says India is wrong in saying its improved version of Gleevec does not fit patent requirements as an innovation.
Lawyer Anand Grover for the Cancer Patients Aid Association says the argument directly threatens Indian protections against patent abuse.