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      Merck returns to India, new patent law helps

      Posted AtReuters

      NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. drug maker Merck & Co. said on Friday it had restarted operations in India, nearly two decades after it left the country, as a change in patent laws made it an attractive market.

      Merck has set up a wholly owned unit, MSD Pharmaceuticals Private Ltd., which will market its medicines, vaccines and hospital products in the local market, officials said.

      "We have a long-term commitment to this very exciting market," Naveen Rao, medical director, MSD India, told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference, adding tighter patent laws had helped.

      Earlier this year, India amended its laws making it illegal to copy patented drugs, a practice that has made India a major source of cheap copycat medicines.

      Leonard Taura, the Indian unit's managing director, said the company would also examine options of setting up manufacturing units and research and development facilities.

      Rao said the company would initially market two products, Aggrastat aimed at patients with unstable angina and Zienam meant for treating serious infections in hospitalised patients.

      "We would certainly explore the possibility of research in India, as that is one field where I think India offers tremendous potential with its skilled workforce -- but that still needs to be properly looked into," Rao said.

      India is the world's fourth-largest producer of medicines by volume, but ranks only 13th by value, reflecting the low prices of products in the local market.

      The New Jersey-based drugmaker had wound up its business operations in India in the mid eighties saying the business environment was not conducive at that time.

      Rao says times have changed.

      "We want to be among the top five to 10 players in the Indian pharma industry within the next 10 years," he said.

      July 22, 2005


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