Pharma Sector in India is caught in the debate over the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and access to affordable medicines. Affordable drugs are necessary and is a matter of great concern for the healthcare system. There is a need to refine the Drug policy in India in the light of growing concerns about patent filing in the pharma sector and access to cheap medicines.
Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights encourages companies to invest in research and development. Most companies invest in research and development so that they can reap profits from the product developed. Patenting the product or process ensures that others do not replicate the concerned product to gain a share of the potential profits. But the critics of enforcement of intellectual property rights in the pharma sector argue that patents encourage monopolies. The pharmaceutical companies who patent drugs can sell those drugs at quite high prices because of no competition involved in the marketing of the drug.
The incomplete understanding of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is the real issue that India’s drug industry is facing. Currently, only 5% of medicines used in India are said to be patent-protected. Breakthrough therapies are being developed in the world but why these therapies are not made available to India but are being introduced in other countries?
It is observed that the new drugs and therapies encounter delay in marketing approval in India despite their global launch. Moreover the new drugs that are launched in India are produced and sold as generic versions by Indian manufacturers within one year of their introduction. Generic medicines are the copies of brand name counterparts of drugs originally developed by other companies. The rapid appearance of generic versions of medicines and delays in marketing approval display a lack of faith in the patent regime.
Patents are important in innovative sectors like pharmaceutical industry as they provide incentives for companies to invest in those sectors. Investment in innovation, research and development is an essential component of supporting an innovative and enterprising economy.
In order to link medical innovation with affordable treatment a supportive role by the Government is required. The government should design a price-control mechanism without tampering the grant of patents. The government should deploy tools to reduce uncertainty in Intellectual Property Rights and to build an ecosystem that promotes medical innovation. We must achieve a balance between the current and future needs of patients and the timely introduction of existing and new pharmaceutical drugs.