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Role of IP rights in pharmaceutical innovation, affordable access to healthcare

Dr Joslyn Ngu
12 Sep 2017

Intellectual Property (IP) rights play a key role in strengthening the pharmaceutical industry, which can contribute to improving Malaysia’s economy and general health outcomes, experts say.

Speaking at the Improving Health Innovation and Access to Medicines seminar organized by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), the company’s director of Research, Ali Salman said to spur the growth of innovation, strong IP laws are necessary. He cited the US as an example; a big percentage of revenue for the most successful US companies derive from ideas, concepts, brands, innovative products and processes.

A patent is the most important IP for a pharmaceutical company, said Linda Wang, a lawyer with Zaid Ibrahim & Co, which specialises in IP rights. In agreement with Ali, she said patents will encourage innovation, and this has been shown in the US where the generic industry experienced a 40% growth. A patent will provide the company monopoly for a set duration, and this will allow them to cover the cost of research and development.

There is a need for balance between providing incentives for research and development against access to medical innovations, said Dr. Salmah Bahri, senior director of the Pharmaceutical Services Office, MOH. Among the challenges faced by the healthcare system today is an exponential rise in drug prices. The increase in pricing is partly contributed by the power given to companies through patent rights, she said. As the regulatory body in the country in charge of healthcare, several steps can be taken by the MOH to improve access to medicines. Examples include creating conducive regulatory infrastructure, establishing government-to-government relationships through mutual recognition agreements and providing incentives for generic industry. A more transparent patient access scheme or management entry agreements will be helpful for the local healthcare system, said Salmah.

Also speaking at the forum, Chin Keat Chyuan, country manager of Johnson & Johnson Sdn Bhd and president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia said IP rights should be viewed as a system that provides sustainable and win-win framework for both the pharmaceutical industry and regulators. He said there are more than 240,000 on-going clinical trials at the moment and this is an indication of growth in the pharmaceutical industry. Strong IP rights would not only encourage investment and innovation, but it will also help to increase economic activity, he said.

Intellectual Property rights are defined as ideas, inventions and creative expressions based on which there is a public willingness to bestow the status of property. [J Adv Pharm Technol Res 2011;2(2):88–93] It is the legal rights given to an inventor or creator to protect his invention or creation for a fixed duration. Among the types of IP protection are patent, copyright and trademark.

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Elvira Manzano, 3 days ago
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