Innovation Asset Blog

Debating the role of patents in pharmaceutical innovations

While some critics may balk at the profits posted by pharmaceutical companies in the past few decades, biotechnology firms insist these revenues are being reinvested to create the breakthrough medicines of tomorrow. According to the Wall Street Journal, some advocates are now pushing for an extension on pharmaceutical patents to ensure these organizations can continue to prosper from their intellectual assets.

"The American pharmaceutical industry is seriously ill. And extended patent protection is just the medicine drug companies need," explained American Council on Science and Health director Josh Bloom in a guest column for the Journal. "A well-planned extension of patent protection, especially for innovative drugs, is both reasonable and necessary to keep what is left of the American pharmaceutical industry healthy enough to continue its crucial work."

However, Els Torreele of the Open Society Foundation's Public Health Program suggested that the ties between drug patents and innovation may be overstated. In a counterargument published in the Journal, Torreele explained that the number of "new molecular entities" recognized by the Food and Drug Administration has fallen significantly in recent years despite the extended patent timetables and increased research and development spending seen in the past two decades.

Conversely, Torreele would like to see tighter application standards included in pharmaceutical patent reform. In the report, she suggested that the gradual easing of criteria for medical breakthroughs has led to complacency from large manufacturers managing already-healthy revenue streams.

Peter Ackerman

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.