GD Monday - 'Should patents be disallowed for life-saving drugs?'


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Patents should not be disallowed. The underlying basis of assigning patents is to encourage & protect research initiatives taken by Pharmaceutical companies. As such Pharma business is a very high risk sector. A quick example can be brought up that of Biocon. It is an Indian Pharmaceutical company which became popular for its cheap human insulin product launched in 2003. The company has primarily focused on developing new drugs instead of solely focusing on generic drugs unlike its other Indian counterparts. Biocon has been facing lot of issues lately as it has not been able to bring into the market a new breakthrough drug for long time & therefore it has been facing a lot of financial issues lately. What encourages & drives companies like Biocon which are taking such a toll due to inherent risk in pharmaceuticals R&D is the allotment of patents. I believe it is a genuine way to drive such an industry. However, I would do agree that some of the Pharmaceutical companies, especially in US are playing the patent provision inappropriately. Whenever there patent is about to end, they would tweak the original product & create a new patent out of it. Such misuse of patents should be avoided. Further, there could be a cap on the margins which the companies can charge based on the efficacy of a drug for various segments of the society in different geographies. Pricing strategy for novel drugs which has a huge market, for example for AIDS, can be rationalized by the regulators. The company can still earn a good profit just by driving the volumes of such drugs, thereby increasing their distribution of such drugs and making it available to all affected. For drugs affecting lifestyle problems, the regulators can allow to increase the pricing cap.

9 Apr, 2013 |


The patent system has now-a-days become a major factor in promoting inequity between the developed and the developing nations, between the rich and the poor. The research systems favour inventions for which there are many buyers. It works in tandem with the logic of the market, where people with money can avail of products they need, and the others are costed out. A great majority of people living in developing nations as India, suffer from what are termed as 'neglected disease'-malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea,etc. These are neglected because the poorest of the globe's population suffer from them. And hence neglected by the research bodies, because patenting them would be of little value. Moreover, Indian pharma market accounts for less than 2% of the global market, while the US market alone accounts for about 25% of the global market. So a majority of pharmaceutical companies do not tailor prices on humanitarian grounds or on national situation, but on the fact that how much the market of developed nations can absorb. Before India signed the TRIPS agreement in 1994, there was a 'no product patent' provision in the Patents Act, which benefited an overwhelming majority of the people. However, patent system is necessary, for high amount of risk and cost that is incurred into it. Companies would not invest in R&D if the patent system were not to provide incentives in the form of patent monopolies. But having said that, there should different norms about the patent system for the developed and the developing nations. Categorization of diseases could also be done which could benefit all the sections of the society and stop promoting the inequity.

17 Apr, 2013 |