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UK Pharma Giant GSK Won't Patent Its Drugs in Poorer Countries 34

Glyn Moody, reporting for Ars Technica: The UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced that it will not be routinely patenting its drugs around the world. Instead of applying for patents on its medicines in all regions, it will now take into account the economic development of the country before deciding whether to seek monopoly protection there. As a result, a poorer country can encourage local manufacturers to create cheaper generic versions of GSK's products, and thus provide them to a greater number of its population, potentially saving many lives. Specifically, GSK says: "For Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Low Income Countries (LICs), GSK will not file patents for its medicines, so as to give clarity and confidence to generic companies seeking to manufacture and supply generic versions of GSK medicines in those countries." Might sound weird but, this makes economic sense for GlaxoSmithKline. Applying for and defending a patent could cost a huge chunk of money. Then there are application and overhead expenses when selling a drug to different markets.
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UK Pharma Giant GSK Won't Patent Its Drugs in Poorer Countries

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  • Does "Least Developed Countries" include the U.S.?
    • At last check, the US was producing 57% of the world's new drugs.

      So, no, everybody else is backwards and should be more like us. Giving drugs out for free presumes they are innvented, first. Death, driven by reality, is conquered by advancing technology the fastest. Giving it out for free warms the heart, but is several magnitudes the smaller problem.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Either that or it is all a marketing lie because you only need to file a patent in one country due to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org], so that "A patent application filed under the PCT is called an international application, or PCT application". So straight up marketing dick bags, trotting out some PR=B$ double speak because the majority are kicking up about the hyper inflated prices of drugs with 10,000% profit margins, pay or die. Whilst those same arse holes are pushing TTP and TTIP to ensure file in o

        • Either that or it is all a marketing lie because you only need to file a patent in one country due to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org], so that "A patent application filed under the PCT is called an international application, or PCT application". So straight up marketing dick bags, trotting out some PR=B$ double speak because the majority are kicking up about the hyper inflated prices of drugs with 10,000% profit margins, pay or die.

          You should have kept reading, rather than rushing into your rant. From the same wiki page:

          A PCT application does not itself result in the grant of a patent, since there is no such thing as an "international patent", and the grant of patent is a prerogative of each national or regional authority.[5] In other words, a PCT application, which establishes a filing date in all contracting states, must be followed up with the step of entering into national or regional phases to proceed towards grant of one or more patents. The PCT procedure essentially leads to a standard national or regional patent application, which may be granted or rejected according to applicable law, in each jurisdiction in which a patent is desired.

          Basically, what happens is, rather than going to each country individually and filing a patent application, you file a single PCT application. WIPO does a preliminary search, and transmits a copy of the application and search to every country's national patent office (e.g. the USPTO, the Chinese patent office (SIPO), the Korean patent office, the Mozambique patent office, etc., etc.). You then go to each country that y

          • If you're only getting a patent in 3-4 countries, the combined [PCT application + national applications] cost more, but if you're getting a patent in more, you save significant money. For example, if you're a big pharma company and want a patent in 100 of those countries, the PCT will save you ~$30-50k in just filing fees, and probably another $30-50k (or more) in attorney or paralegal time to do those filings.

            Finally, now, someone says this.

            Alas, it's too late for me to save that $60k. It's spilled milk.

            • If you're only getting a patent in 3-4 countries, the combined [PCT application + national applications] cost more, but if you're getting a patent in more, you save significant money. For example, if you're a big pharma company and want a patent in 100 of those countries, the PCT will save you ~$30-50k in just filing fees, and probably another $30-50k (or more) in attorney or paralegal time to do those filings.

              Finally, now, someone says this.

              Alas, it's too late for me to save that $60k. It's spilled milk.

              Gah... Sorry? :/

        • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

          Yours is one of the most remarkably silly frothing rude pointless rants that I've seen in a long time. If I were unkind I could say I'd hope that your meds would be released as generics so that you could actually afford to take them.

          I came back after several days to add this news item that may add some light to the flying spittle:

          https://www.newscientist.com/a... [newscientist.com]

          which suggests that there isn't much ulterior motive in GSK's actions.

          GSK certainly isn't perfect, but it is not horrible (and I own a little stoc

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday April 02, 2016 @02:50PM (#51829119) Homepage Journal

    The imbecilic comment about how someone else will be able to patent them due to "first to file" has been delayed.

    Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      The imbecilic comment about how someone else will be able to patent them due to "first to file" has been delayed.

      While a competitor may be "first to file", given GSK would've patented it elsewhere earlier pretty much invalidates that patent - only in the US do you actually get a 1 year grace period from public display to file a patent - everywhere else the instant you display it publicly renders it invalid for patent protection.

      It's why we have patent treaties and such to allow for multiple country patent a

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Saturday April 02, 2016 @03:05PM (#51829195)

    Just up the US price to cover the loss.
    As we are the only place with no price control.

    • "As we are the only place with no price control."

      More accurately: the US is the only country with no free drug market.

  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Saturday April 02, 2016 @03:13PM (#51829223) Journal

    I can guarantee that small molecule medication will patented in all countries. Medication containing non-sophisticated chemicals are an easy target and will be copied immediately (Viagra, Cialis, Prozac, statins, amoxicillin).

    These are biologic drugs that really need no practical patent protection in third world countries. Here is why: an average biological drug, such as, for example, melanoma cancer drug Keytruda, uses intellectual property associated with literally several hundred patents.

    More importantly, in order for the product to be manufactured on an industrial scale pharma companies are building factories that can cost up to one billion dollars.

    To translate to layman's terms: GSK does not need to protect such products in third world countries, as there is simply not enough brainpower, scientists, technicians and experience even to replicate development of the manufacturing process. If somehow the product is magically be copied, it would not be economically feasible to sell in a small country.

    • Many people know that a large part of the high cost of meds is the recovery of the R&D cost, however, many of the large molecules and inherently expensive to make too, and even "stolen" will be super expensive to the end user. So the poorer countries will just not be able to sell them in any large quantities anyway.

  • How poor do we have to become to qualify?

    -American Citizen

  • by magusxxx ( 751600 ) <magusxxx_2000@NoSPaM.yahoo.com> on Saturday April 02, 2016 @03:39PM (#51829317)
    Did the tax code change so they can now just write-off the lost profits without having a patent? And I'm not just talking about the U.S.. Could the ability to do this be in that multi-national trade agreement they're shoving down our throats?
  • that people will question the insane profits (mostly built off of Basic Research done with taxpayer dollars) and make them stop. Pharma bro almost blew the whole thing by openly admitting their business model without the dog whistle. They censored him like a ton of bricks (but I suspect he'll be back after he learns his lesson; they don't spill each other's blood).
  • by Steve1952 ( 651150 ) on Saturday April 02, 2016 @04:08PM (#51829417)
    The basic concept sounds like a win-win for everyone. GSK gets to save money and act like the good guy, while the poorest countries get inexpensive drugs. Obviously the devil is in the details, but I am at a loss to think of a better solution. If you want new drugs, then at least the richer countries must pay their part of the development costs (a great way to totally kill new drug development is to deny patents everywhere). GSK's solution is similar to a progressive drug development tax.
  • They forgot to mention that those 'poor', 'undeveloped' countries don't give a shit about their intellectual property, they don't let their population die by the millions, just to honor that some moron in a foreign country got an idea first, but manufacture that drug anyway.
    So these guys just adapt to reality. (which _is_ a small wonder IMHO)

    PS. An example of such a country with around 1.5 billion 'patients'.
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.... [washingtonexaminer.com]

  • Might sound weird but, this makes economic sense for GlaxoSmithKline. Applying for and defending a patent could cost a huge chunk of money.

    It's far, far cheaper to just bribe a few congresscritters and get their interests protected by pushing lopsided trade agreements.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Shifting he economic burden from those who can least afford it to those who can easily afford it is simple, progressive common sense.

  • This is significant for what they do not say: they do not say that they want to allow those poorer countries to manufacture, *and then export* the generic versions of these drugs. In fact, many of these countries already ignore dodgy pharmaceutical patents, so it's actually cheaper for GSK to not file for protection there, as it is less money wasted.

    What matters to GSK is that rich countries, and especially America, have a very high legal barrier to prevent their citizens from importing cheap drugs. GSK w

  • More like the developing nations won't put up with their abuse of the patent system and keep throwing their patents out.

Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little more time for dreaming. -- J. P. McEvoy

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