Thursday, April 04, 2013

Pharma trade deals costing Australia "billions"

Extending the life of pharmaceutical patents from 14 years to 20 has cost the Australian economy billions of dollars, according to a government-commissioned review.

Moreover, in signing the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), Australia agreed to preserve a further extension to pharmaceutical patents beyond the 20 years that it had already legislated, "without careful regard to whether this was in our own economic interest," says the Pharmaceutical Patents Review Panel, in a draft report which it has put out for consultation this week.

These patent extension measures were supposed to encourage the development of the pharmaceutical industry in Australia but, with 70% of drug patents expiring later there than elsewhere in the world, they have in fact severely restricted the development of a generic drugs industry in the country, according to the draft report, which estimates that Australian generics firms have missed out on opportunities worth around A$2 billion over the last eight years.

And because they delay the entry of cheaper generic drugs onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), patent extensions are costing the government around $200 million a year, it adds.

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