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Time to repair the drug patent process in Canada: Longer drug patents will not attract new research

Time to repair the drug patent process in Canada: Longer drug patents will not attract new research

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Published by EvidenceNetwork.ca
Last week the f ederal government signalled that, to reach a new trade agreement with Europe, it might extend pharmaceutical patents. The move could cost Canadians
up to $2 billion per year. Supporters argue that it will attract research investment and generate jobs. But longer drug patents will not attract new research to Canada.
Last week the f ederal government signalled that, to reach a new trade agreement with Europe, it might extend pharmaceutical patents. The move could cost Canadians
up to $2 billion per year. Supporters argue that it will attract research investment and generate jobs. But longer drug patents will not attract new research to Canada.

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Published by: EvidenceNetwork.ca on Mar 07, 2013
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06/03/2013

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umanitoba.ca
http://umanitoba.ca/outreach/evidencenetwork/archives/8872
Time to repair the drug patent process in Canada
Longer drug patents will not attract new research
 A version of this commentary appeared in the Windsor Star and the Huffington Post 
Last week the federal government signalled that, to reach anew trade agreement with Europe, it might extendpharmaceutical patents. The move could cost Canadiansup to $2 billion per year. Supporters argue that it will attractresearch investment and generate jobs.But longer drug patents will not attract new research toCanada.Pharmaceutical firms locate research investments on thebasis of the quality of local scientists and the cost of running clinical trials. If we want industry to invest inCanada, we need to invest in our capacity to conductresearch. One way would be to double the budgets of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – whichwould cost less than extending pharmaceutical patents.But if Canada must change drug patents to win a trade deal, let’s at least fix our broken intellectual propertysystem while we are at it.The patents that apply to other technologies fail the pharmaceutical sector. They fail for a number reasons.First, most patented medicines must be studied in clinical trials to establish that they are safe and effectiveenough to be sold to Canadians. This can take years after firms file their initial patents, which reduces thetime they can charge monopoly prices (the ‘carrot’ that patents create to give firms incentive to develop newdrugs).The proposal to give firms a guaranteed period of market exclusivity (i.e., a guaranteed length of monopolysales) after regulatory approval would not only benefit firms, it would also allow regulators to demand better pre-market drug trials and to take more time to evaluate trial data.The current rush to approve medicines while manufacturers“patent clocks” are ticking means that somemedicines make it to market that later must be recalled because of harms they cause to patients – harmsthat could be detected with more thorough pre-market evaluation.The second failing of the patent system for pharmaceuticals is that, although disclosure of scientificinformation is a key benefit of the patent system, the information of greatest value to society is not publiclydisclosed when a patent is filed. This is because data about the safety and effectiveness of most medicinesis gathered after patents are granted.Few Canadians realize that pharmaceutical companies can and do keep regulatory data about safety andeffectiveness secret. This secrecy should end. And it can be ended by making full public disclosure of regulatory data a condition of extended pharmaceutical patents.Finally, the patent system fails in the pharmaceutical sector because nobody appears to know when generic

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