Tuesday, 18 January 2011

EU Commission looking at Generics and Patents

#alttext#There's a detailed report emanating from Bloomberg Businessweek which explains a little bit about the EU's current investigation into the branded and generic drug markets. The European Commission has been looking into the market place and is worried - just like the US government - that major branded pharmaceutical companies are misusing the patent system to ham consumers (and at least in Europe the government, which ultimately pays for much of European health care directly or indirectly through the tax system). The concern is of course, that pharmaceutical companies file invalid and follow-on patents to prevent their generic competitors bringing out substitute drugs.

The EU commission has now - following unannounced inspections - also called raids- on drug companies last year - started a so-called monitoring exercise to review the activities of the branded pharmaceutical companies. The report quotes Joaquin Almunia, the EU's competition commissioner in stating that patent settlements “are an area of particular concern because they may delay the market entry of generic medicines,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said in the statement.

#alttext#Over in Germany, the VFA - the German Association of Research-based pharmaceutical companies has been active in arguing the case for branded medicines. The message is directed at the current reforms to the German health system being promoted by the Federal Ministry of Health. In many ways the issues are the same: how to ensure adequate and affordable health care whilst providing sufficient funds to research companies through the health system to incentivise research. It's clear that no pharmaceutical company can live on grants from the government alone - and the health care, whilst it is by no ways perfect, provides a mechanism to ensure that successful innovative products are rewarded. Patents play a crucial role here in protecting and defining the bounds of the innovation. On the other hand there is a need to reduce the costs of the health care system and clearly generic drug producers have a major role here - this author will normally ask his local (German) pharmacist for "ASS" tablets or wait to stock up on the generic aspirins when he is in the US (note: Aspirin (R) is a registered trademark in Germany). Where are the boundaries between efficient innovation and cost-effective health care? There's almost certainly non "one-size" fits all - the control through the European Commission is probably the only way of policing the marketplace to ensure that there is a fair playing field.#alttext#

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