Research Article: Are Patents Impeding Medical Care and Innovation?

Date Published: January 5, 2010

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): E. Richard Gold, Warren Kaplan, James Orbinski, Sarah Harland-Logan, Sevil N-Marandi

Abstract: This month’s debate examines whether the current patent system is crucial for stimulating health research or whether it is stifling biomedical research and impeding medical care.

Partial Text: The question posed in the title of this PLoS Medicine debate seems to be a simple one, but there is a complex spectrum of answers depending on how one interprets the question. In this article, I lay out four different interpretations and their corresponding answers.

The complicated debate about whether or not patents impede “downstream” medical care and “upstream” medical innovation is ultimately about access to such care and innovation, which are at opposite ends of a “chain” of biomedicine.

If patents represent a bargain between the claimant to intellectual property (IP) and the state, and on balance should benefit society, a key question in this age of globalization is “which society?” The United Kingdom’s Royal Society, an independent academy of science, rightly argues that “uses of intellectual property that benefit people in one part of the world but conspicuously fail to benefit others, or even act to their detriment, are not what the [patent] system is supposed to be about” [40].



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