The roles of patents and research and development incentives in biopharmaceutical innovation.

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Patents and other forms of intellectual property protection play essential roles in encouraging innovation in biopharmaceuticals. As part of the "21st Century Cures" initiative, Congress is reviewing the policy mechanisms designed to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new treatments. Debate continues about how best to balance patent and intellectual property incentives to encourage innovation, on the one hand, and generic utilization and price competition, on the other hand. We review the current framework for accomplishing these dual objectives and the important role of patents and regulatory exclusivity (together, the patent-based system), given the lengthy, costly, and risky biopharmaceutical research and development process. We summarize existing targeted incentives, such as for orphan drugs and neglected diseases, and we consider the pros and cons of proposed voluntary or mandatory alternatives to the patent-based system, such as prizes and government research and development contracting. We conclude that patents and regulatory exclusivity provisions are likely to remain the core approach to providing incentives for biopharmaceutical research and development. However, prizes and other voluntary supplements could play a useful role in addressing unmet needs and gaps in specific circumstances.





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Grabowski, Henry G, Joseph A DiMasi and Genia Long (2015). The roles of patents and research and development incentives in biopharmaceutical innovation. Health Aff (Millwood), 34(2). pp. 302–310. 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.1047 Retrieved from

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Henry G. Grabowski

Professor Emeritus of Economics

Professor Grabowski specializes in the investigation of economics in the pharmaceutical industry, government regulation of business, and the economics of innovation. His specific interests within these fields include intellectual property and generic competition issues, the effects of government policy actions, and the costs and returns to pharmaceutical R&D. He has over one hundred peer reviewed articles analyzing the economics of pharmaceuticals and also several books and monograph publications. Professor Grabowski has testified several times before Congress on the issues of FDA regulation, health care reform, drug innovation and generic competition and vaccine policies. He has received numerous awards and professional recognition including a special issue of essays published in his honor in 2011 in the International Journal of the Economics of Business. He also has served as an advisor to various government and business organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the Office of Technology Assessment, the Federal Trade Commission, and the General Accounting Office. The US Congress has recognized the significant role that a paper he published with Duke colleagues David Ridley and Jeff Moe had in the passage of legislation that incentivized development of new therapies for neglected diseases through the creation of priority review vouchers.

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