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If it’s not my innovation it’s not worth protecting, although certainly worth using! India declares war on foreign pharmaceutical innovators?

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Bayer, Novartis, Roche and Pfizer all stand to lose from the current Indian philosophy towards biomedical innovation generated by foreign firms.

The recent patent revocations of Roche’s hepatitis C drug, Pegasys and Pfizer’s cancer drug, Sutent; the issue of a compulsory license on Bayer’s Nexavar; and the on-going patent dispute with Novartis over its oncology drug, Glivec, are symptoms of a much more fundamental philosophical gap between India (and some other emerging economies) and the west.

It would seem that the antiquated philosophy of mercantilism has not faded away but rather shifted to the most economically-important platform of our time – innovation!

What is so little recognized is that end-users – in this case, patients – are the ones most hurt by putting a cap on innovation. In other words, patients won’t have access to affordable medicines if these medicines are not developed in the first place.

History shows us that the prohibitive costs of R&D, especially biomedical R&D, are only overcome with some basic incentives. A ceiling on the use of knowledge for the purpose of national industrial interests is not one.

The battle between the mercantilist and the neo-liberal, non-discriminatory mindsets towards the use of knowledge cannot be won in the courts. There the debate may be buried under the cloak of patent-related technicalities. Instead, it should take place in the policy arena, where views must be expressed in a more transparent and explicit manner.

Nevertheless, may the best (most age-appropriate) philosophy win.


About the Author:

Rachel specialises in biomedical and energy-related innovation as well as international innovation policy. She has particular experience in sector-specific trend mapping, survey building and benchmarking of intellectual property environments. Rachel’s work focuses on Europe, with special emphasis on the UK and Spain, and she speaks fluent Spanish. She gained direct experience with UK innovation policy while interning with the UK’s then Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
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