Fraser Institute Proposes International Pharmaceutical Patent Reform

The Fraser Institute, a leading Canadian public policy think tank, has joined the chorus of voices asking to extend the life of Canadian pharmaceutical patents. Their report, released this month, suggests that trade with the US and Europe would be streamlined by making the Canadian system more in unity with the two other markets.

At the moment, Canada has some of the shortest patent lifespans for a developed country. Discussion on the subject is divided over whether this encourages more internal clinical research and treatment development, or less. Critics of short patent length say it makes the entire sector lose out on investment because each individual drug patent provides less financial returns, while on the pro side, shorter patent life may also encourage more innovation to generate new patents.

Costs and Benefits

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The Fraser Institute proposes that unified patent lengths will boost imported pharmaceutical sales.
Photo source: mnn.com

As an exporter, Canada is famous for inexpensive medicines. As an importer, including of the ingredients that go into creating drugs manufactured internally, Canada gets an advantage by confining itself to countries that can reliably provide standards in pharmaceutical quality assurance that is enjoyed within the country. Consumers feel very strongly about product safety and in this context the US and Europe provides a reassuring source. These markets are also at the forefront of some of the latest pharmaceutical and medical research, so that being able to streamline trade helps drugs developed in research powerhouses like Iceland and Denmark reach the national market faster and start saving lives.

The Fraser institute predicts that extending patent lifespans would come with an increased cost, an estimated $367 million to $903 million annual increase from increased IP protection. However, they argue that that general rewards in increased pharmaceutical sales and import investment would throw $12 billion a year back into the Canadian economy.

Navigating the world of pharmaceutical regulations is always a challenge. With so many perspectives, it’s important to consider all the positions before deciding your own opinion.

Do you think the trade boost is worth extending patent lifespans for?