Trade, Innovation and Health

The collection of voices is growing larger, and stronger.  Recent months have seen increasing coverage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and an increasing number of contributions and expert opinions on the value of this agreement.   There is growing recognition of the importance of the TPP for America’s innovative industries and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries in particular.  These industries provide a telling glimpse of the critical nature of intellectual property (IP) protection to the US economy.  The value of IP protection is essential to both public health and safety, as well as US jobs.   

Pharmaceutical innovation is a difficult and expensive process to undertake, but one that is easy to replicate.  The fixed costs of research and development are very high, likely exceeding a billion dollars for a new compound, while the marginal costs of production are very low, perhaps pennies per dose in some cases.  As a result, patent protection is disproportionally more important in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries than in many other sectors to ensure that the researcher appropriates the returns to research and development (R&D).   Given the ease of replicating pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical innovations, protection is vital for the economic future of these firms, and the innovative leadership of the US.

The defense of our most innovative industries and the security of the global drug supply chain depend upon strong intellectual property rights and enhanced enforcement.  As aptly phrased by the adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, protection of our intellectual property rights and the prevention of infringement is far easier than contending with the consequences of failing to do so.