Big pharma tries to have it both ways on patents

The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t understand why it’s unpopular with the public. In my opinion, a big part of the problem is that the industry’s lofty rhetoric is seen as self-serving. For example, the industry touts the importance of patents on its drugs, but is seeking to preserve an exemption that has allowed drug companies to use analytical companies’ patents in drug discovery without paying royalties.

Here’s what the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer’s of America (PhRMA) says on its website about the importance of patents:

Pharmaceutical companies rely on government-granted patents to protect their huge investments in researching and developing new drugs… Without patents to
protect all the inventions necessary to develop a drug for a limited time, others could simply copy the drugs immediately, offering their versions at a reduced price since they did not incur the high costs to develop the drug. This would seriously impact the pharmaceutical companies’ ability to recoup their costs and reinvest in other research projects.

But the drug industry is fighting hard to preserve an exemption that has allowed it to use analytical companies’ patents free of charge in research that is aimed at gaining FDA approval for a drug. When someone else owns the patents, all of a sudden the drug companies find that patents impede progress!

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

…if the Supreme Court upholds [the] view [that drug companies are infringing the analytical companies’ patents], “drug innovators would have to sit on their hands, awaiting patent expiration before starting to conduct the battery of experiments necessary to qualify a path-breaking new drug for clinical trials including human subjects.” Potential treatments “for innumerable diseases and conditions will be denied to patients for a decade or more after all patents expire” if the Supreme Court upholds the earlier decision [that drug companies must pay royalties to the patent holders].

If patents are necessary for pharma companies to “recoup their costs and reinvest in other research projects,” why doesn’t the same hold for analytical tool companies?

April 18, 2005

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *