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Should MP's Extend Patent Protection to Counter Antimicrobial Resistance?

on Monday, 10 December 2018.

The lack of new antibiotics poses one of the gravest threats to healthcare with a lack of new medicines coming through.

It has been estimated that tens of millions of people could die in the next few decades due to the decreasing effectiveness of current antibiotics. 

One possible solution would be to offer greater financial incentives to the pharma companies to develop new ones.

The UK Government should consider changing the way in which patent law works, the Health and Social Care Committee in the House of Commons has suggested. The Committee said there was a tension between the limited period of time that patents last for these expensive developments, and the fact that the medical profession were being encouraged to use those medicines very sparingly so that they stayed effective for as long as possible.

The Committee has recommended that the life of some patents could extended, or there could even be a "transferable patent voucher" which would grant a patent extension to a successful developer of certain antimicrobials - so the voucher could then extend the patent on another product or be sold to another pharma company. But would this lead to too much reward? Or do the ends - solving an economic conundrum around such a big threat to human health - justify the means?

Do you have any thoughts on these suggestions? What do you think could be done to incentivise pharma to develop more antibiotics. Please share them with Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 01923 919 320.