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Pharmaceutical Patent Life

Pharmaceutical Patent Life

The newly released discussion paper on effective patent terms for pharmaceuticals is heavily slanted against extending the life of patents and a backward step, according to intellectual property specialist, Doug Calhoun, Partner at A J Park.

The normal patent term of 20 years is inadequate because of long lead times in developing and proving the usefulness and safety of pharmaceutical products. Doug Calhoun says if companies don’t have adequate intellectual property protection in this area, they are less likely to invest in developing new drugs.

“The discussion paper released by the Ministry of Economic Development suggests New Zealand should rank itself with countries that do not have patent term extensions, such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, Ecuador, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Peru, South Africa and Venezuela. It does not see that New Zealand should have its patent law in conformity with that of Australia, Japan, Korea, Israel, the United States and member countries of the European Union”, he says.

“The drive to harmonise New Zealand’s intellectual property laws with those of Australia which were a feature of the CER negotiations in the 1980s and 1990s has now disappeared from the political landscape. There is no recognition that while New Zealand and Australia are moving towards a common pharmaceutical product marketing approval agency, the patent term for pharmaceuticals between the two countries can be significantly different”, he says.

Doug Calhoun says he is concerned that the Government is going about patent law reform in a piecemeal way without consulting with all interested parties. “One of the urgent actions recommended by the Biotech Taskforce Report, issued last month, was that the Government should amend patent legislation to accommodate biotechnology product development times so that the effective patent life is extended and New Zealand is in line with international best practice. This Discussion Paper dismisses that possibility without any analysis or reference to the Biotech Taskforce or the submissions that were made to the MED in 2002 which were picked up in the Biotech Taskforce Recommendations”, he says.

Doug Calhoun says the Government appears to be attempting to limit the cost of purchasing pharmaceuticals by limiting the patent periods relating to them. However he says a monopoly purchaser of pharmaceuticals like Pharmac has more than enough power to control prices directly.

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