A Dutch academic hospital has successfully and legally experimented with replicating a very costly cancer medicine. The product was originally developed and patented against a rare form of lymphoma. The active substance in the drug, for which the patent has expired, also works against other forms of cancer though.
It can now be manufactured at a price that is 70x lower than the original product of pharmaceutical giant Merck. This method is gaining momentum in medical circles. Many drugs are developed in the laboratories of universities and academic hospitals these days. So in fact, it is done with public money. Often, those discoveries are then sold to the highest pharmaceutical bidder, and any chance of price control goes out the window there and then. The high cost of medications is one of the main contributors to the enormous increase in our medical expenses.
The world should follow India’s example. There, a maximum price, much lower than the international price, is set for a vast number of expensive medicines. In addition, the Indian law makes obtaining a patent difficult. The courts in India block attempts from pharmaceutical companies to apply for multiple patents for one drug, as they often do in other countries. India calls this “working at the imbalance between intellectual property and public interest”. On those grounds, an Indian court recently licensed a local producer to manufacture a patented cancer drug at a fraction of the market price, despite fierce opposition from manufacturer Bayer.
This post is also available in: Dutch