In the ever-evolving landscape of global health, the importance of intellectual property (IP) in biotech and pharmaceutical innovation cannot be overstated. As society faces unprecedented challenges, from the rise of non-communicable diseases to the effects of pandemics, innovation is paramount. However, recent trends in emerging markets, coupled with regulatory challenges, pose a threat to the very foundation of innovation—intellectual property.The innovative potential of both Europe and the global economy is currently standing at a crucial juncture. Populist movements in liberal democracies and emerging markets are advocating for short-term gains, pressing for a continued erosion of intellectual property rights. While medical breakthroughs over the past decades have steered society in a positive direction, enabling the cure or treatment of numerous once-lethal diseases, it is crucial to acknowledge that science has yet to advance to the point of addressing all of the over 10,000 known diseases in the world.
Only through ongoing innovations can humanity hope to surmount these challenges without compromising the average standard of living. Therefore, establishing an innovation policy framework that actively fosters creativity becomes paramount.
Emerging markets, often burdened by higher taxes, duties, and government fees on drugs, face significant challenges in ensuring affordable access to essential medicines. In countries like Brazil or Kenya, VAT rates of up to 25% and additional markups can lead to a total drug price increase of 200-300%. Furthermore, some governments disrupt global supply chains by exclusively procuring drugs manufactured domestically.
Additionally, delays in drug approvals, ranging from 5 to 8 years longer compared to developed countries, hinder patients in emerging markets from timely access to life-saving medications. Bureaucracy, lack of medical infrastructure, and the absence of regulatory harmonization contribute to these challenges. To enhance patient access, developing countries could benefit from recognizing drug approval decisions made by established regulators like the FDA or EMA, as exemplified by the Republic of Georgia.
Within the European Union, challenges also emerge as governments aim to reduce procurement costs for innovative drugs. Merging drug purchasing and price negotiation efforts may lead to lower public expenditures but risks rationing innovative medicines, limiting patient choice and access. Regulatory harmonization discussions between the FDA and EMA, previously addressed in the failed TTIP talks, need reevaluation to mutually recognize market approvals and ensure a level playing field for patients on both sides of the Atlantic.
The world’s innovative potential is at a crossroads, with populist movements advocating for the erosion of intellectual property rights. While medical breakthroughs have paved the way for treating once-lethal diseases, challenges remain in addressing over 10,000 known diseases, feeding a growing global population, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Innovation, fueled by intellectual property, is the linchpin to overcoming these challenges without compromising the average standard of living.
Intellectual property is fundamental to a society’s ability to innovate continually. Attacks on intellectual property rights equate to attacks on innovation and, consequently, on patients with incurable diseases. European patients deserve the benefits of future medical breakthroughs, necessitating policymakers to endorse innovation policies rather than advocating against them.
In the context of global trade, the European Union’s trade policy must extend beyond favoring innovative products from specific regions and instead prioritize intellectual property protection globally. Strong IP rights are indispensable for fostering innovation in Europe and catalyzing scientific breakthroughs to cure diseases that continue to challenge us. Any attempts to undermine intellectual property within the European Union weaken the global case for patents and hinder the development of new medicines.
If the EU neglects to champion innovative technologies, not only will businesses suffer, but consumers will also be deprived of the opportunity to access the latest drugs. Europe needs to lead the scientific forefront by supporting policies that foster innovation. New technologies, such as advanced data analysis and biochemical simulations, can accelerate research in the biotech sector, demanding a commitment to innovation from policymakers.
In conclusion, the importance of intellectual property in biotech and pharmaceutical innovation extends beyond national borders. From emerging markets facing pricing challenges to EU member states navigating procurement dilemmas, intellectual property remains the bedrock of innovation. Policymakers must recognize that safeguarding intellectual property rights is not just about protecting businesses but ensuring a future where patients benefit from groundbreaking medical discoveries. As the global community grapples with pressing challenges, fostering an innovation policy framework that upholds intellectual property rights becomes a shared responsibility to secure a brighter, healthier future for all. With the potential consequences of undermining innovation becoming increasingly apparent, it is imperative that policymakers act decisively to protect intellectual property and ensure that the fruits of medical breakthroughs are accessible to all corners of the globe.
Originally published here