As America’s biopharmaceutical companies work around the clock to develop solutions to help diagnose and treat those with COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel strain of coronavirus, the importance of a robust innovation ecosystem is at the forefront of our minds. Intellectual property (IP) protections help lay the foundation for this ecosystem, both in the U.S. and across the globe.
How Intellectual Property Protections Spur Innovation
IP and the New Era of Medicine: Our intellectual property system in the United States promotes competition and is the foundation for breakthrough treatments and cures for patients. Government organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) perform limited research; however, most of the research and development spending comes from biopharmaceutical manufacturers, which are unique in the substantial risk they take on. Because of a competitive U.S. patent system, biopharmaceutical innovators are willing to invest more than any other industry in R&D and bring forward medical advances critical to addressing some of our most challenging diseases.
The Importance of IP Protections: IP protections give innovators certainty that their proprietary inventions or products are protected from copycats, encouraging them to pursue that one idea that may work despite hundreds of others that may fail. At the same time, innovators publish the specifics of their invention in exchange for these protections so others can learn from their research and use it as a building block for future, competing discoveries.
Developing new medicines is a lengthy and complex process, and the work that goes into the initial discovery and patent application is just the beginning. A biopharmaceutical manufacturer must then demonstrate the safety and efficacy of a new treatment through rigorous testing that involves clinical trial data before a medicine can be made available to patients. By the time a medicine is ready for the market, it has typically taken on average $2.6 billion and 10 years—about half of the life of a patent.
The Value of IP Protections in the United States: In the U.S., IP protections help support more treatment options and generic alternatives, lower long-term health care costs, and Americans living longer, healthier lives. In fact, our IP system strikes a balance between promoting innovation and meeting the needs of patients who rely on breakthrough treatments and cures. In the last three years alone, 150 new treatments and cures have been approved, and over 3,000 generic alternatives have been approved or are on the road to approval. Today, more than 90% of drug prescriptions are filled with generics—up from 19% 35 years ago.
Additionally, America’s biopharmaceutical industry is a major contributor to the nation’s R&D economy and helps keep America at the forefront of advanced technology development. The industry ranks first among all U.S. manufacturing industries in terms of R&D dollars invested per employee and is responsible for about one out of every six dollars spent on R&D by U.S. businesses.
Today, 90% of new treatments and cures in the world come from the U.S., which is one of only a few countries where medicines are developed. Without reliable patent protections for inventions, patients would have access to fewer treatments and cures
The Role of IP Protections Around the World: IP is important on the international scale as well, as intellectual property systems differ from country to country. Many countries around the world are lifting IP standards to benefit their patients and consumers, to empower local inventors and to encourage more investment in innovation.
As people everywhere face the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and researchers race to develop and test potential solutions, we need innovation more than ever. Patents and other intellectual property have enabled a rapid response to this disease. They are facilitating the collaboration and partnerships needed to defeat the virus and to quickly scale up manufacturing and distribution of approved treatments and vaccines. To win this fight, countries around the world must continue to protect new inventions.
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