Blogs: The Reinvented Pharmacist

Patent Life and Innovations

Published Online: Tuesday, January 31, 2012
There was an interesting supplement in the January 23, 2012, Wall Street Journal that debated proposed changes in health care policy. One question was “Should Patents on Pharmaceuticals Be Extended to Encourage Innovations?” I wonder which side of this issue pharmacists would support. The arguments offered are the ones we’ve heard before. As drug discovery becomes more costly and it takes longer to get a drug to market, patent extensions on at least breakthrough therapies are needed to ensure that the investments in drug discovery are made.
The other side raises the issue that there is no proven relationship between patent life and innovation.  Besides, the issue is health innovations, not drug innovations, if we want to improve health care in many countries, not just the wealthier countries.
I heard a pharmacist who worked for the pharmaceutical industry suggest that one part of pharmaceutical care is the pharmaceutical used to cure disease or at least modify its negative consequences. If you were to take that position, then it would be easier to support patent extension. 
A strong pharmaceutical industry is more likely to produce innovative drugs—and patents seem to be a key element to having a strong industry. I would ask this question:  Is there any evidence that not putting more resources in the pharmaceutical industry by patent extension means that resources would be spent in addressing other health care disparities?  I guess I am inclined to come down in support of patent extensions, but maybe that has to do with age and training.  Your thoughts?
Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times
Blog Info
This blog focuses on what our Editor-in-Chief sees as the future of pharmacy.
Author Bio
Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, is the Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times, a position he has held since 2002. Mr. Eckel is a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.

In this blog, Eckel will provide commentary on relevant issues impacting pharmacists and pharmacy professionals, including the merging of pharmacy benefit managers, the implications of health care reform, the conversion of major drugs from prescription to over-the-counter, trends in pharmacy careers, and opioid abuse. He will also discuss legislative issues that impact pharmacists, and comment on the evolving role of the pharmacist.
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