No Patenting Required for Pharmaceutical Breakthrough Drugs?

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In the last couple of weeks, John Edwards has been creating a stir with talk of offering research cash prizes for the research and development of "breakthrough" drugs—but no patent to go with it. According to Scott Malone (November 13, 2007, Reuters), this is part of Edwards $120B plan to provide healthcare to all Americans.

My question is: If you really want to give generic drug manufacturers an incentive, why not offer them patent protection as a part of the package?

 

True, removing patent protection gives generic manufacturers a chance to jump into the market sooner, where now they have to wait until the big guys’ pharmaceutical patents expire. However, this advantage is short-sighted on two fronts.

First, by not offering the monopoly granted with patent protection, the marketplace would flood with competitors indistinguishable from each other, which would make the profit margins shrink considerably, not to mention quickly.

Secondly, as I mentioned in a previous post, consumers value patented brand names in prescription drugs to a far greater degree than their generic counterparts. If you want to widen the landscape to give the little guys a chance, I’m all for it. But, give them their full due in patent protection, which enables them to compete from a position of strength through proprietary control.

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