Price of medicines may soar if evergreen patents granted
Many medicines would become too pricey for ordinary consumers in the near future if the government allows manufacturers to extend patents under the so-called evergreen system.This would allow drug companies to fix the cost of medicines, health advocates say.
"Evergreen patents could block competition and access to affordable medicine," researcher Usawa-dee Maleewong of the Health Systems Research Institute, said.
Usawadee's research into the impact of evergreen patents in Thailand found that over 2,188 requests for patent protection were submitted to the Intellectual Property Department between 2000 and 2010. Of these, only 12 were made by local drug makers, with the rest submitted by multinational pharmaceutical firms. American drug companies submitted about 736 requests during this period.
The department has approved 31 requests to date, meaning patent protection could be extended to these pharmaceutical products for 20 years - or indefinitely.
Usawadee's study revealed that most requests were intended to extend the patent term on an existing compound of a drug or on one to which minor changes had been made. She estimated this strategy would help create monopolies in Thailand worth about Bt8.4 billion over the next 15 years.