Novartis is bullish on Africa. The company’s chief executive Joseph Jimenez last week assembled his senior executives to discuss strategy. Describing the continent as the “next set of emerging markets”, Jimenez thinks it could deliver double digit growth for the Basel-based drug company.

Pharmaceutical companies are now looking to devise long-term strategies for Africa, a market long reliant on donations but now with an expanding middle class. But all brand pharma companies have to tread carefully when trying to make profits in emerging markets. Read more

Pot smokers all over the world may be lighting up joints to celebrate the fact that Uruguay on Tuesday became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis completely – from planting the seed to getting high.

But is what President José “Pepe” Mujica openly admits is an experiment going to work? Will Uruguay succeed in reversing rising crime rates, which were the initial impetus and justification for the new law? Read more

EM health starts here

Towering above the Manhattan skyline, the 50th floor of JPMorgan’s headquarters is as remote from Africa as you can get. But during the UN General Assembly every September, the capital of high finance becomes a capital of international development as heads of state, philanthropists and multinational companies mingle in New York.

This week, the world’s top investment bank by revenue announced its lead role in the launch of $100m Global Health Investment Fund, a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a punchy list of public donors and private financiers. A way of using CSR to drum up business, or good for the world? Or perhaps a bit of both? Read more

The US subsidiary of Ranbaxy Laboratories, India’s biggest pharmaceuticals group, has pleaded guilty to felony charges related to drug safety and will pay $500m in what the US Department of Justice called the largest such settlement to date with a generic drug manufacturer.

It lifts a cloud hanging over Ranbaxy for the past eight years. But it is still not clear when the company will be able to resume exports to the US from its two factories at the centre of the scandal, which have been at a virtual standstill since 2008. Read more

By Sudip Chaudhuri of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta

India’s Supreme Court has denied Novartis a patent for a cancer drug. Novartis is upset that the judgement will adversely affect innovation.

In this case, the judgement is based upon a simple but powerful idea – and other countries could follow suit. Read more

In this photograph taken on October 20, 2010 drugs are displayed at a chemist's shop in Mumbai.India’s lawyers will be licking their lips. Just days after the Supreme Court denied the multinational pharmaceuticals group, Novartis, patent protection for its cancer drug, the country’s judges have another case on their hands.

Merck Sharp and Dohme, better known as MSD, has filed a case with Delhi’s High Court claiming that Glenmark, the Mumbai-listed pharmaceutical company, is violating patents on its diabetes drugs, Januvia and Janumet. And in an unusual move – as domestic pharmas rarely take one another on in India – Sun Pharma, has joined the proceedings as a co-plaintiff. Read more

Joaquin Guzman (taken in 1993)

Guess what the biggest news from Monday’s update of Forbes’ latest rich list is.

Nope, it’s not that Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon, continues to be in the number one spot with an estimated US$73bn.

It is that Joaquín El Chapo (or shorty) Guzmán, another Mexican multimillionaire, has dropped off it for the first time in four years. Read more

While foreign governments cheered loudly in favour of Felipe Calderón’s war against Mexico’s drug gangs, Jorge Castañeda always maintained it was unwinnable, a “bloody, reckless adventure”.

Castañeda, a former foreign minister, supported Calderón’s successful presidential campaign in 2006, but was first taken aback, then aghast as, almost without warning, the new president immediately donned military garb to confront Mexico’s powerful drug gangs. Read more

For months, residents in an affluent part of Pattaya, a seaside resort town near Bangkok, assumed that the three foreign men who lived in a nearby luxury villa ran an import-export business, because, as one resident told local media, people “who looked like businessmen” came and went throughout the day.

It was not the sort of export-import the locals envisaged, as they learned when the villa became the target of one of Thailand’s biggest-ever drug busts in late November. Read more

Curbing imports has been high on the Brazilian government’s priority list recently but it seems the authorities should be spending less time fretting about cheap Chinese cars and electronics and more time worrying about cocaine.

Brazil is the world’s biggest market for crack and the second biggest for overall cocaine use, according to new figures published by the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP). About 3 per cent of Brazil’s adult population (almost 6m people) has tried cocaine or some form of the drug.  Read more

Telling apart legitimate medicine from the fake is a big problem in many parts of the world, especially Africa. But as with many innovations in that area of the world, a simple text message may do the trick.

Bharti Airtel has partnered with US tech company Sproxil to crack down on counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Africa using just a mobile, a scratch-off label, and an SMS message. And the technology may extend to other businesses too. Read more

It’s often said that Latin Americans have a fondness for grand summits, although they usually deliver little other than empty declarations. Well, this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia is shaping up to be a talkfest of Marquezian dimensions. Read more

A study by Mexico’s economy ministry, and which is expected to be made public in the coming days, points to a very suprising conclusion: foreign investors are not afraid of the country’s mounting drug-related violenceRead more