Civil Society Report on IP, Innovation, and Health
- Weak intellectual property legislation in countries with incipient or extant knowledge-based industries acts as a serious disincentive on R&D into the diseases of poverty, not least because it jeopardises the ability to generate enough sales to cover the extremely high costs of innovation. This is particularly true of highly politicised diseases such as HIV/AIDS; with countries such as Brazil threatening to implement compulsory licenses for ARVs, it becomes more difficult for R&D companies to invest resources in the search for new medicines.
- Strong intellectual property legislation can also go some way to encouraging the development of an indigenous R&D industry in countries where it currently does not exist. As India comes to terms with its recently enacted patent legislation, for example, more companies are turning to value-added R&D work, rather than merely producing copies. It is likely these companies are also finding commercial benefit in developing drugs for diseases prevalent among local populations, which, due to their lower cost base, can be developed at prices far lower than equivalent development in wealthy countries.
- Proposals that seek to restrict the granting of patents for so-called ‘me-too’ drugs misunderstand the incremental nature of innovation. The vast majority of drugs that exist today are incremental improvements on preceding drugs. The existence of many similar drugs in the same class is vital for improving safety, efficacy, selectivity and utility of
drugs within a specific class.
- Transferable patent extensions may work but need to be given careful consideration. A scheme that allowed a drug company to extend the patent on a single blockbuster for a year or more, for example, would effectively force the users of that drug to pay for the development of a drug for a completely different disease. This is ethically dubious and would likely be met with fierce resistance by patient groups. If, however, the patent extension was spread more thinly, for example by granting a short patent extension to many drugs, then these concerns would likely be alleviated.
- Countries with slow and inefficient patent offices should introduce measures to improve the speed and efficiency of the patenting process. This might entail the introduction of incentive-based pay schemes, the contracting out of services to the private sector, or the merging of patent offices in different countries.
International Policy Network (IPN) is a charity based in the UK, and a non-profit (501c3) organization in the US. It is a non-governmental, educational and non-partisan organization that "aims to empower individuals and promote respect for people and property in order to eliminate poverty, improve human health and protect the environment."