Thursday, November 15, 2007

WHO Mulls Patent Changes and Prizes for Needed Drugs [at Insistence of Anti-IP Extremists]

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog

November 6, 2007, 8:42 am

Posted by Avery Johnson

Cheaper medicines for the developing world are on the agenda this week at a World Health Organization’s powwow in Geneva. And the debate there over patents is likely to give drug makers agida.
It’s the second meeting of a WHO public health working group that’s trying to put together an action plan to present to the World Health Assembly in May. The main issue on the table is age-old: How to coax drug makers to spend precious research dollars on diseases that aren’t blockbuster material? Some are thinking outside the box, reports the Financial Times, with suggestions for pooling patents or awarding prizes to companies that develop drugs for neglected diseases.
Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, welcomed the delegates with a delicate dance. Her speech praised innovation (score one for the drug makers) and highlighted the need for equitable health care (notch one for public health advocates). Some WHO draft proposals are calling for the usual fix of compulsory licenses and beefed-up support for generics makers.
A U.S. NGO called Knowledge Ecology International is pushing for the more radical approach. One idea is to combine drug makers’ IP in a pool and farm out the collective knowledge to third parties for drug development. Patent holders would still get some rewards, but generics companies could launch a copycat product sooner and more cheaply.
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