[Ip-health] Survey: US Health Agency Should Use Patent Rights To Keep Drugs Affordable

Claire Cassedy claire.cassedy at keionline.org
Thu Aug 29 13:18:22 PDT 2013


Survey: US Health Agency Should Use Patent Rights To Keep Drugs Affordable

By William New, Intellectual Property Watch

A new survey supports the argument of public health advocates that
pharmaceuticals resulting from government-funded research in the United
States should be no more expensive than in other similar countries, and
that patent rights should be used to make it so.

According to the survey, most people asked think the US National Institutes
of Health (NIH) should use its patent rights over pharmaceuticals from
research it funded to ensure that residents do not pay more than other
high-income countries for the drugs.

The survey questions were developed and paid for by nongovernmental
organisation Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), but the survey was
independently conducted by the SurveyMonkey service, which carried out the
random selection of interviewees, data collection and analysis, according
to KEI.

In the survey of 170 randomly selected US residents, 7 out of 8 took this
view that NIH-funded research should not be priced higher than in similar
countries. The survey results and information are available here.

The survey was conducted from 26-28 August, and consisted of two questions
regarding NIH-funded drug development. According to the KEI website, the
questions were:

“Question 1.

Respondents were provided with data regarding the US National Institutes of
Health (NIH) overall budget as well as the amount budgeted for HIV/AIDS
research. The background information also gave the percentages of US
patents that benefited from US taxpayer funding of research that contained
the terms ‘cancer’ and ‘HIV’ in the patent claims (19% and 23%
respectively) from 2010 to 2011. The first question was:

Were you previously aware of the extent of US government funding of medical
research, including research that leads to patented inventions?

Results: Yes, 38 percent. No, 62 percent.

Question 2.

On the topic of US drug prices as compared to other high-income countries,
respondents were provided with data regarding a policy the NIH has been
asked to adopt. The policy in question asks the NIH to grant new
non-discriminatory licenses to generic drug manufacturers to use the
patents on NIH funded drug discoveries when drugs are more expensive in the
US than in other high-income countries. It then presents the perspective of
drug companies, who argue that patent owners/drug companies should be free
to charge US residents higher prices, regardless of the financing of the
drug’s research and development. The question asked was as follows:

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), a government agency, has
rights to the patents for dozens of drugs that were developed with federal
funds. Should the NIH require patent holders to charge no more to residents
of the United States than the prices in Canada, Europe and other
high-income countries, for the same drug?

Results: Yes, 71.7 percent. No, 9.6 percent. Not sure 18.7 percent.”

The KEI website said that KEI and others filed a petition in October 2012
requesting NIH “grant Bayh-Dole Act march-in rights for the patents held by
Abbott Laboratories relevant to the manufacture and sale of ritonavir, a
federally funded invention that is much more expensive in the United States
than in Canada, Europe or other high-income countries. The NIH has yet to
grant a hearing on the petition.”

The petition also asked for a more general rule that would provide a
march-in remedy for any drug when US prices were higher than prices for the
same product in other high income countries. The new survey supports that

“If seven out of eight members of the public think the NIH should protect
them from paying more than everyone else, maybe government officials and
elected members of Congress should do something,” KEI President James Love
said. “The NIH has yet to grant a hearing on this issue. The petition was
filed October 2012. It’s almost a year, and the NIH is stalling.”

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