Public procurement of pharmaceuticals and the patent system, the first date of a stormy relationship?

Public procurement of medicines has proven to be a tricky business. A co-operation between the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFMPA), the global trade association representing the research-based pharmaceutical industry, was launched on the 25th of September 2018. This new initiative, the Patent Information Initiative for Medicines (Pat-INFORMED), is a database through which patent holders provide information about patents covering approved medicines. The database does not only constitute a database of information but also a communication platform between procurement agencies and pharmaceutical companies.
WIPO is hosting the database and providing the resources to ensure its continued development, while IFPMA is working closely with the 20 leading research-based biopharmaceutical companies that have backed this initiative to help ensure a consistent and coordinated approach.
"WIPO is committed to increasing the transparency of the patent system and ensuring it works to benefit humankind. As a public-private partnership focusing on access to key patent information, Pat-INFORMED will facilitate the procurement of important medicines and thereby support better health outcomes for people across the globe. Such partnerships are critical to success in the field of public health,"
said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and continued, 

 "WIPO is pleased to be contributing its extensive expertise in making complex patent information simpler and more accessible and looks forward to further collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure the success of this initiative."
While information about patent applications and grants reside in the public domain, resources that directly link patents to medicines already on the market are scarce and limited. Tools that directly link granted patents to medicines are only available publicly in certain countries (e.g. the USA’s ‘Orange Book’) or through private third-party databases. Pat-INFORMED aims to help close these gaps and make patent research easier, faster and more accessible to a wider array of health workers.
This cat wonders, how the new database will influence access to medicines

Importantly, Pat-INFORMED also offers procurement agencies a direct communication channel for follow-on enquiries to participating companies.  Each of the participating companies, currently 20, has agreed to engage in discussions with official procurement agencies that are seeking  more detailed information about granted patents on specific products.
So far, Pat-INFORMED houses information on over 14,000 individual patents, for 600 patent families and 169 INNs, unique names that are globally recognized and used to identify pharmaceutical substances or active pharmaceutical ingredients within medicines that cover a wide range of conditions. The database is claimed to contribute to more-efficient procurement processes, and the possibility to reduce the time needed to procure medicines in low and middle-income countries with a whole 30%.
Pat-INFORMED features patent information for small molecule drugs within oncology; hepatitis C, cardiovascular, HIV, diabetes, and respiratory therapy areas; and any products on the WHO Essential Medicines List that are not within these therapy areas. The ambition is that, in a second phase, the initiative will extend to all therapeutic areas and explore the inclusion of complex therapeutics.
You can watch the press release here!
While the database claims to facilitate the procurement of medicines, increase the transparency of patent information, one could of course wonder whether this costly new (and of course interesting) initiative is a result of an increasing problematic interface between public procurement and intellectual property rights. After all, public procurement is to a large extent based on lowest price-goals, not largely supported by patented pharmaceuticals (generics seem to have filled in the gap here). Is this the first step of addressing this sensitive (not least from a political point of view), interrelationship of public procurement and patent law?
One of the positive aspects of the database is to increase the transparency of the patent system. While all information in the database is publicly available information (in patent search databases), it is probably the first time where the industry accepts and admits that patent information is not as available to the public as earlier claimed.

Public procurement of pharmaceuticals and the patent system, the first date of a stormy relationship?  Public procurement of pharmaceuticals and the patent system, the first date of a stormy relationship? Reviewed by Frantzeska Papadopoulou on Thursday, October 04, 2018 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Generic manufacturers do not generally promote their products, nor launch them in all territories. Oddly enough generic companies are interested in profit, not aiding access to medicine. Countries may procure medicines from abroad if they know there are no patent infringement issues. The database aids this procurement. Nothing overtly political about this.

    Pharma companies, of course, support this initiative, but I doubt they would have pushed it, because they are only helping the generics make more money. They may even have rejected/delayed it.


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