1,960 out of 2,034 Thai patents in last 10 years, large foreign companies working to keep medicine expensive for longer & profits high.
Photo above of the life-saving HIV/AIDs drug Atazanavir.
This drug and others only save lives when there is public access to affordable medicines, the subject of today's article below.
Click button to listen to Evergreening Patents to download
Medicine patent laws drive up drug prices, says institute, 'Evergreening' patents protect big producers by Apiradee Treerutkuarkul
The Health Systems Research Institute has urged the Department of Intellectual Property to amend the Patents Act and application process to pave the way for greater access to medicines.
Of the 2,034 patents granted during the past decade, 1,960 were categorised as "evergreening patents", meaning that the patent holders - typically large, multinational drug companies - applied for new patents by making only minor changes to formulas.
The strategy allows them to keep an existing patent in play for much longer.
Most patent applications ranged from medical use claims, (patents which cover the way a drug treats a particular ailment), medicinal formulations for drugs such as tablets, capsules and ointments, and the use and selection of chemicals or pharmaceutical compounds in drugs, among others, said a study by the institute's drug system research group.
The study also found that most of the patent holders in Thailand were German, Swiss, Swedish, French, British or American companies.
Only 0.5% of patent applications were from Thai companies.
"Evergreening patents is a strategy widely used by multinational pharmaceutical companies to retain profits from popular drugs for as long as possible," said group researcher Nusaraporn Kessomboon, an academic at Khon Kaen University 's faculty of pharmaceutical sciences.
But this affects public access to affordable medicines as well as domestic research and development.
The drug market is dominated by only a few patent holders and this has forced Thais to buy expensive drugs.
Ms Nusaraporn said when an original patent gets close to expiring, many foreign manufacturers will often claim they had to introduce complex or speculative derivative products, which are often only minor changes to the original drugs, in order to produce better results for patients.
Aids drug Atazanavir is one example of an evergreening patent. The original patent for the drug was granted in 1997.
The drug company sought an extension of its 2005 patent to protect its place in the HIV/Aids treatment market and then also requested a patent to protect its formulation in 2008.
If the evergreening patent is granted, it could extend the validity of the Atazanavir patent to 2028 from 2017, and in the process block attempts by others to manufacture generic versions, said Ms Nusaraporn.
Usawadee Maleewong, a freelance researcher participating in the study, said the next phase of research would look into the impact of evergreening patents on people of various economic means by studying the top 100 kinds of pharmaceuticals, such as cholesterol blockers, glucosamine, diabetes, heart disease and Aids drugs, for example.
The study is expected to be completed by January 2012, she said.
Ms Usawadee said her group planned to submit the results to the Department of Intellectual Property to seek ways of protecting Thais from big companies' exploitation of evergreen patents.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Medicine patent laws drive up drug prices, says institute, 'Evergreening' patents protect big producers, 6/09/2011, Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, link)
Healthcare Economics Vocabulary
Atazanavir - an HIV/AIDs drug produced by Bristol-Myers (See Wikipedia)
patent - legal rights to use an invention and to prevent the invention from being used by others, details of invention must be revealed to government patent office (See Wikipedia)
medicine patents - a patent for an invention in the pharmaceuticals industry, used to protect the large investments necessary to develop drugs, these patents are also an important source of technical information including Markush structures describing the chemical being patented, these generic structures are used to make the patent claim as broad as possible, "When patent protection expires, the originator companies lose their exclusive rights to manufacture and market these medicines and generic manufacturers can enter the market with medicines that are equivalent to the original medicines, but typically at significantly lower prices. This helps contain public health budgets, contributes to an increase in consumer welfare and creates incentives for further innovation." (See Wikipedia)
evergreening patent - a variety of legal and business strategies by which technology producers with patents over products that are about to expire, retain rent from them by either taking out new patents (for example over associated delivery systems, or new pharmaceutical mixtures) or by buying out or frustrating competitors, for longer periods of time than would normally be permissible under the law ... refer[s] to the myriad ways in which pharmaceutical patent owners utilise the law and related regulatory processes to extend their high rent-earning intellectual property rights otherwise known as intellectual monopoly privileges, particularly over highly profitable (either in total sales volume or price per unit) 'blockbuster' drugs... the courts are an instrument frequently used by pharmaceutical brand name manufacturers to prolong their patent royalties ..." (See Wikipedia)
patent holders - patent owners
drive up drug prices - cause drug prices to increase
pharmaceutical - connected with the production of medicines เกี่ยวกับเภสัชกรรม, เกี่ยวกับยา
multinational companies (MNCs) - a large company that operates in many countries around the world (See Wikipedia)
multinational drug companies - most companies that produce pharmaceuticals (legal drugs) are large multinationals, also known as "Big Pharma" (See Wikipedia on Pharmaceutical Industry and List of Companies)
urged - advised someone very strongly about what action should be taken วิงวอน
amend - to make changes to a document, law, agreement, etc. especially in order to improve it การแก้ไขกฎหมาย
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
pave the way - make something easier to happen or do
access - the right or opportunity to have or use something ได้รับสิทธิ์หรือโอกาสในการใช้
greater access to medicines - when people are able to get medicine more easily (at lower cost)
pave the way for greater access to medicines - make it easier for people to get the medicine they need at low cost
amend the Patents Act - change the law on patents
application - making an official request for something (example: submit a college application to gain admission to the college)
patent application - making an official request from the government to accept your patent
application process - the many steps that must be taken to get a patent (that take a long time)
granted - officially gave ให ้
grant - officially give
grant a patent - officially give a patent (to someone)
decade - a period of ten years ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี
the past decade - the last 10 years (the period from now to 10 years back in the past)
categorised as - describing as (by putting in one group of things that are the same)
typically - usually; normally อย่างเป็นแบบฉบับ
minor - not important; small เล็กน้อย
making only minor changes to formulas
strategy - a plan to achieve long term goals ('strategy' gives the big picture, 'tactics' the details)
keep in play - keep a product active, making money for the company
keep an existing patent in play for much longer -
ailment - an illness อาการป่วย, โรคทางกาย
medicinal formulations - instructions on what chemicals medicine contains and how to make it (what is patented)
pharmaceutical compounds - the mixture of chemicals combined to make some medicine
retain - to keep รักษา
for as long as possible - trying to make the period of time the longest (that it can)
academic - someone who teaches at a college, or who studies as part of their job นักวิชาการ
faculty - a group of departments in a college which specialize in a particular subject or group of subjects คณะ
affordable - not expensive ไม่แพง does not cost too much, so people have enough money to use or buy it
public access to affordable medicines
domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
domestic research and development
dominated - controlled ถูกควบคุม ถูกชักใย บงการ
drug market is dominated by only a few patent holders - the market for drugs is controlled by only a few companies that own the patents
expire - when the official period of existence ends (of a law, for example)
expiring - will end soon, coming to and end
patent expiring - the patent will be coming to an end soon
extend - to make a period of time longer ขยายออกไป
extension - an increase in the power of effect of something ขยายขอบเขตออกไป
extension of its 2005 patent - adding time to the 2005 patent (so that it can exist for many years more)
claim - saying something is true without proving it yet
complex - having several parts with difficult to understand connections
results - what is produced in the end by an activity or task
claim they had to introduce complex or speculative derivative products ... in order to produce better results for patients
treatment - the process of providing medical care การรักษา
HIV/Aids treatment market - the market for AIDs drugs
validity - the state of being legally accepted การมีผลบังคับได้ตามกฎหมาย
extend the validity of the Atazanavir patent to 2028 from 2017
generic versions (of a drug) - low cost and basic versions of a drug (without a "brand name" that customers pay extra for)
block - to stop someone or something from doing something or moving through a place ปิดกั้น กีดขวาง
block attempts by others to manufacture generic versions
freelance - working for themselves (not affiliated or working some larger organization, like a university, a government department, etc)
freelance researcher - a researcher working for some organization (hired on contract)
participating in the study - involved in the research project also
economic means - income, how much money you make, whether you are poor or rich
people of various economic means - a mixture of people with different incomes
impact - an effect or influence ผลกระทบ
impact of evergreening patents on people of various economic means - the different effects of drug patent extensions on rich, middle income and poor people
pharmaceutical companies - drug companies บริษัทยา
cholesterol - a chemical found in food, consuming high quantities over time is associated with heart disease (See Wikipedia)
cholesterol blockers - drugs that lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease (See Wikipedia on hypercholesterolemia and hypolipidemic agent)
glucosamine - "a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans are a major component of joint cartilage, supplemental glucosamine may help to prevent cartilage degeneration and treat arthritis" (See Wikipedia)
diabetes - a serious medical condition in which your body does not produce enough insulin to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood โรคเบาหวาน (See Wikipedia)
expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)
submit - to formally give something to someone so that can make a decision about it ยื่น (เอกสาร) เพื่อการพิจารณา
exploitation - unfair treatment of someone, or the use of a situation in a way that is wrong การใช้หาประโยชน์อย่างไม่ถูกต้อง
Latest stories in this category:
- A big language challenge
- Chiang Khong bridge to open December 11th
- Rotating house to catch sun & wind: Made in Chiang Rai
- Nelson Mandela dies aged 95
- Thais celebrate His Majesty the King’s birthday
- Satellite TV: Jamming signal of Blue Sky & Thai Asia
- Struggling for breath
- It's over! Crunch time: Day two (BIG) surprises