Thursday, November 18, 2010

New drugs, patents expiring and upcoming ones

Diseases evolve, so treatment must also evolve. As new diseases are discovered, or old diseases emerge as a hybrid disease, new medicines and vaccines must be discovered and produced to treat or kill such new diseases. Hence, the need for medicine innovation.

Patents and other forms of intellectual property rights (IPRs) help provide the incentives to medicine inventors and innovators. The "monopoly period" of 20 years patent life -- minus 10 to 15 years in various phases of clinical trials and approvals by government regulatory agencies, or net "profit period" of 5 to 10 years -- is supposed to help the drug innovators to recoup their huge R&D costs and make profit.

I read from a physician, Dr. James Gillespie, in the Asiahealthspace blog, that "In the next 4 to 5 years, drugs worth $80bn will go off-patent. This will open tremendous opportunities for firms in low cost countries such as India to successfully compete with their generic versions of off-patents."

Wow, that's a huge opportunity for the generics manufacturers. And good opportunity for patients to enjoy cheaper medicines from more generics companies competing with each other.

But if so many drugs are losing patent, to mean partly that they are getting older while new diseases are being discovered or are evolving, where are the new drugs?

According to, "New medicines in development",

Today, over 2,950 new medicines are in development. Many of these potential new medicines will fail in clinical trials, but some may represent tomorrow's new treatments. Bringing each new medicine to patients will require, on average, 10 to 15 years of testing and review.[i]

This database includes medicines currently in clinical trials or at FDA for review. The information contained in this database was derived from Wolters Kluwer Health's Adis R&D Insight database and is published with permission under license with Wolters Kluwer Health.

That is something that many patients can look up to. There are old, cheaper drugs and treatment that are available from competing generics producers. And there will be new, patented and more expensive drugs that will be made available by a few innovator companies. Price will definitely be an issue, no question about that. But it's saving the life of a loved one that is the bigger issue.

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