Reports
Unreliable Data Have Infected the Policy Debates Over Drug Patents
Chair, Forum for Intellectual Property and Senior Fellow
A scientist pipettes a sample into a test tube while conducting medical research. (Getty Images/Westend61)
Caption
A scientist pipettes a sample into a test tube while conducting medical research. (Getty Images/Westend61)

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The COVID-19 pandemic has vividly brought to the public’s attention the key role of medical innovation in saving lives and increasing the quality of daily life. The pandemic has also precipitated an international debate over the role of patents and other intellectual property rights in the discovery, manufacture, and distribution of drugs and vaccines to patients. Even before COVID-19, there has been an ongoing policy debate in Washington, D.C., over drug prices and patents with congressional hearings, proposed legislation, and antitrust enforcement actions.

The pandemic has thus made apparent what reliable data have already shown: poorly crafted legislation or antitrust enforcement actions could have a tremendous negative impact on the innovation economy in general and on healthcare specifically by undermining the incentives that drive the billions invested annually in the research and development of life-saving drugs and other medical treatments. Congress and regulators should engage in evidence-based policymaking on these important issues, which have far-reaching implications for economic growth and quality of life. This policy memo identifies a serious concern about the data in these discussions.

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