20-Year Patent Lifetime Means Big Pharma Focuses On Diseases That Kill Fast, Study Says

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Since the average patent is in force for 20 years, pharmaceutical companies are focusing on diseases that kill people quickly rather than preventable drugs or curable diseases, a recent study says.

Pharmaceutical companies file patents at the time of discovery, not at the time of first sale – otherwise known as “commercialization.” The effective life of a patent is shortened by several years of drug trials necessary after a drug is discovered.

In a recent study called “Do fixed patent terms distort innovation?” three economists argue that pharmaceuticals are being forced to match the length of a clinical trial to the expected survival time of patients.

This would mean a 3-year clinical trial for metastatic prostate cancer patients would give it priority over an 18-year trial for a milder, localized form of prostate cancer.

Researchers found there are 30 times as many clinical trials for recurrent cancer drugs than preventable drugs, The Economist reports.

The problem here is that so much money is being pumped into research and development for diseases with the highest mortality rates, rather than diseases where the patients are more likely to survive.

Researchers argue that the pharmaceutical industry, by its very nature, needs a different patent system.

Sources: The Economist, JDSUPRA Business Advisor

Image credit: Flick Creative Commons / Images Money


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