The Patient-Driven Drug Pipeline

The new-drug pipeline is a mere shadow of its former blockbusting self. Despite the fact that R&D expenditures have been increasing over the last several years, the number of drugs in the pipeline has been decreasing. There have been many proposed explanations for this:

Healthcare Patents and Hot-Dog Vendors

While patents on medical devices seem normal, patents on drugs and chemical entities may seem like a stretch. I am not sure that the law makers in Venice in 1474, who invented the legal concept of a patent, envisioned the need to patent molecules. In fact, molecules were not even envisioned at that time. We all know that a patent allows an inventor time to commercialize his or her product, but are patents really needed for the economic viability of healthcare? Shouldn’t healthcare be all about saving lives and promoting health and not about making money on people who desperately need healthcare? Do patents have a benefit to patients, not just the patent holders? I think the answer to this question is “perhaps.” Patents promote diversity of products in the healthcare market place by forcing inventors to develop drugs outside the domain of currently patented products.