The intricacies of patent law are hurting patients in need of ground-breaking pharmaceuticals.
A patent must be filed once a new drug is discovered. That patent will protect against competition for 20 years. The problem is a new drug cannot go to market until it has been clinically tested and FDA-approved. That means every year of testing is a year that pharmaceutical companies cannot profit off of their patent. This aspect of patent law influences pharmaceutical companies in deciding which medical ailments to dedicate their efforts on.
An Economist report explains how drug companies focus their R&D on seemingly incurable diseases that are likely to kill patients within a few years. That’s opposed to focusing on diseases that are more likely to be cured, but spend a longer time in clinical trials. The way pharmaceutical companies see it, it is not worth their while to save patients’ lives if the clinical trials take 18 years, because then they would only have 2 years left to sell their drug. Instead they focus on bettering the lives of patients that are sure to die over a short-time span. Because if they only have to test their drug for 3 years, then they’d still have 17 years left to sell it.
Pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t be blamed for this behavior. Drug research and development is very costly. The companies that produce ground-breaking prescription drugs deserve to profit off of them.
The Economist’s report shows how badly the patent system needs to be changed.