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Drug patents expire. Can IP data help you prepare?

Posted: 26 October 2017 | | No comments yet

When important and valuable patents expire, some rejoice and some dismay. Usually, after 20 years of protection, a masterpiece becomes available to all to reproduce, at the loss of the former patent owner…

When important and valuable patents expire, some rejoice and some dismay. Usually, after 20 years of protection, a masterpiece becomes available to all to reproduce, at the loss of the former patent owner. Intellectual Property (IP) is intended to reward innovation, but it does not afford the owner eternal complacency, and continued innovation is thus an integral part of any ambitious business continued strategy.

For the pharmaceutical industry, this feeling is often heightened. Unlike, for example, the technology industry where a patent often covers a single component, with many patents cumulatively providing protection to the final product, important pharmaceutical discoveries are often protected with one key patent. As a result, a small group of pharmaceutical patents often become the most valuable part of the owner’s business.

In such a heavily regulated industry, discovering drugs and developing medicines is a long and resource-intensive process. In 2015 it was estimated that the average cost for each successful, FDA approved commercialised drug was over US$2.5 billion, while the average time it takes to complete the journey from ideation to commercialisation was roughly 10 years. With this in mind, preparation for the expiry of all successful drugs in a company’s patent portfolio must be treated as a key business focus.  

Why is IP data so important to the R&D process of drug development, and how can it help a company prepare for a patent expiring?

Delaying the inevitable

While planning well in advance of a patent expiring by investing in the discovery of new blockbuster drugs is the best way to ensure continued success, there are ways of extending the window of commercialization for a pharmaceutical compound.

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