Two recent studies on Indian drugs have shown that patent protection does not dramatically increase prices, but does ensure widespread access to life saving therapeutics. This research confirms that a weak patent environment slows drug availability and hinders treatment to many people in need.
Data Shows Little Change in Indian Drug Prices after Implementing Stronger Patent System
In a new report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, scholars found that patented drugs did not suffer from dramatic price increases or limited access in India.
The study assessed the market impact of pharmaceutical product patents in India since they began complying with the 1995 Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 2005.
After TRIPS, member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were required to implement minimum levels of intellectual property protection. A number of developing nations subsequently amended their patent laws to conform with internationally prevailing standards. TRIPS required member nations to provide product and process patents in all fields of technology, including pharmaceuticals, with a minimum patent term of 20 years.
Anti-TRIPS activists argued that if developing nations began implementing strong product patent systems, it would significantly drive up prices, limiting access to drugs in rural and impoverished areas.
However, after analyzing pharmaceutical product sales data for India and molecule linked patents issued by the Indian patent office, researchers determined that a molecule receiving a patent experienced an average price increase of only 3-6 percent.
Their results also showed little impact on quantities sold or regional distribution in the market.
Weak Patent Protection Limits Availability of New Drugs
While the 2005 patent law has strengthened some areas of India’s pharmaceutical industry, certain provisions have made it difficult for companies to obtain patents on a number of new drugs.
A recent study from September 2014 examined data on the sales of FDA approved drugs in India between 2000-2009.
It found that 50% of those drugs went on sale in India only after lags of more than five years from their first worldwide introduction.
The study assessed that these particular drugs were subject to weaker patent protection in the country, which discouraged manufacturers and limited availability of new drugs in the country.
The most recent research has clearly indicated that strong patent protection is not driving up prices or limiting access to pharmaceuticals in India. On the contrary, when India has provided weak patent protections for certain drugs, it has slowed diffusion and inhibited the widespread availability of life saving technology.