|Some Kats never grow up.|
Merpel will do anything for
the strawberry flavoured one ...
'The drug makers say those profits fund the research that produces breakthrough treatments. They warn that with patents expiring on several big-money drugs, their ability to develop new drugs will be severely hampered. Longer-lasting patents, they say, would protect the profits that they need to keep innovative products moving through the pipeline.
Critics question that assumption. There's no proof, they say, of a link between patent life and innovation. In their view, drug companies focus on developing the most marketable drugs instead of the most urgently needed medications. So extending patents would serve mainly to boost drug companies' profits, not to encourage the innovation needed to address the world's unmet medical needs'.
Writing in favour of an increase in patent protection was Dr Josh Bloom (right), director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences athet American Council on Science. He describes the 'problem' as follows:
'A confluence of events in recent years has made drug discovery more difficult, expensive and time consuming. Most important, it has become less profitable, largely because longer development times mean companies have less time left under patents to exclusively market their discoveries. Now, the industry faces a financial crisis because of the recent or imminent expiration of the patents on many of its most profitable drugs'.
'... a well-planned extension of patent protection, especially for innovative drugs [as opposed to the 'so-called line extensions-where companies simply tweak existing patents enough to earn a new patent'] is both reasonable and necessary to keep what is left of the American pharmaceutical industry healthy enough to continue its crucial work'.
Writing against an increase in patent protection was Dr Els Torreele (right), director of the Access to Essential Medicines Initiative of the Open Society Foundation's Public Health Program. For Dr Torreele, the 'problem' is that:
'... drug companies are more focused on developing the drugs with the greatest market potential than they are on developing truly innovative treatments that address critical health needs. And the patent system encourages that approach. The previously stringent criteria ensuring that patents applied only to real innovations have gradually been eased. Nowadays, companies can secure a 20-year monopoly by either making minor changes to an existing drug or inventing a totally new drug—so why take the risk of failure associated with the latter?'
In response to the suggestion that the patent system could be modified so that 'innovative drugs' received longer protection, Dr Torreele stated that this:
'perpetuates the fallacy of a link between patents and therapeutic innovation—and that distracts us from thinking about alternative policy tools to promote real health innovation. It's perfectly possible to achieve a major medical breakthrough with a product that isn't patented, while the fact of obtaining a patent doesn't say anything about a compound's actual medical value. Moreover, the patent office [ie the United States Patent and Trademark Office] isn't equipped to judge therapeutic benefit'.
As an alternative to patent extension, Dr Torreele believes that the answer is:
'institut[ing] a regulatory environment that prioritizes health innovation instead of market opportunities, by making approval of new drugs contingent on therapeutic advances that address unmet health needs. In parallel, we should mobilize public and private resources to finance research and development independently of patents, so that we can stop relying on pharmaceutical sales as the primary source of funding for research'.