On September 25, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations’ (IFPMA) combined to launch a new online tool Pat-INFORMED. Its goal is to help medical procurement agencies better understand the global patent status of medicines.

A unique challenge

Patent protection for pharmaceutical companies is very different from IP protection in other industries. Bringing a new pharmaceutical product to market is extremely high risk and high cost. From early stages of compound discovery to seeking government approval for use by the public, it can take decades to develop a medicine and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The high cost involved in pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) means pharma companies often need to apply for patent protection during research stages and before clinical trials. As a result, the average effective patent life for medicines falls from 20 to 11 years.  

Open to all

With the pharmaceutical patent system largely complex and misunderstood, WIPO and the IFPMA have teamed up to a new Pat-INFORMED initiative to “add clarity to patent information around medicines”.

Pat-INFORMED will link public patent information to registered medicines in a new global online database, helping health professionals navigate the medicine-procurement process. The new tools and resources will determine the existence of patents relevant to products for specific disease-management or public health needs.

WIPO is hosting the database and providing resources to ensure its continued development, while the IFPMA is working closely with 20 of the largest biopharmaceutical companies to help deliver a consistent and coordinated approach to the database’s patent information.

The future of pharma IP

With the average life expectancy in Western Europe now 79 years for males and 84 years for females, healthcare resources are already overstretched. The partnership between WIPO and IFPMA will make the management of patent issues in medicines procurement less time and resource-intensive, providing much needed respite for those trying to navigate pharmaceutical IP and improve public health.

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