Pharma industry and WIPO team up to provide better patent information about medicines

By ideas Matter

This month’s announcement that the UN intellectual property organisation and the international pharmaceutical industry have teamed up to develop an international database of pharma patent data represents a large step towards improving the information needed by agencies charged with making decisions about and procuring medicines in their countries.

The Pat-INFORMED initiative, announced by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), will by mid-2018 provide a searchable database that, on a global basis, will correlate granted patents and particular medicines on the market.  It will also provide a communication platform to make it easier for procurement agencies to get more detailed public patent information about a particular medicine.

Patent information is important not only for medicines developers and generic drugs companies but also for health authorities, multilaterals and a variety of NGOs engaged in the procurement of medicines, who need access to patent information to inform their decisions about how, when, where and from whom to obtain life-saving products for their constituents.  

Whilst pharma and generics companies have access to patent lawyers and other professional expertise and services to evaluate such information, public procurement agencies often do not.  As Corey Salsberg, global head of IP affairs for Novartis explained, “Accessing this information and processing it in a way that connects it to medicines can be challenging, burdensome, or for some even daunting.” 

The Pat-INFORMED database is a substantial public-private initiative to address this challenge.  Pat-INFORMED will hosted by WIPO, and twenty leading global biopharmaceutical companies have already committed to participate and provide information for the database and platform.  In the first phase, Pat-INFORMED will focus on collecting and providing patent information on cancer, hepatitis, cardiovascular, HIV, diabetes, and respiratory disease drugs, as well as other products on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Essential Medicines List. 

Peter Beyer, senior advisor to WHO’s Department of Essential Medicines & Health Products, welcomed the initiative at its Geneva launch: “Every initiative that increases transparency on patents in relation to medicines is a good step forward.  It is very difficult to find the relevant patents that relate to one medicine…. I do think this will be useful for WHO, for procurement agencies, and for health in general.”

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said, “Pat-INFORMED will make it easier for procurement experts to assess the patent status of medicines, underlining how a well-designed and implemented patent system incentivises innovation while making available and accessible key information about patented inventions. [T]his initiative… responds to real needs in the public health community.”

IFPMA Director General Thomas Cueni explained, “Patent information in principle is publicly available, but publicly available does not mean easily accessible… The database will be a useful, friendly, transparent tool to help in particular the work of procurement agencies, those who purchase the medicines.”

For more information, see the WIPO/IFPMA announcement here, a Q&A on the initiative here, and video interviews with the WHO’s Beyer here and IFPMA’s Cueni here.   Photo credit: IFPMA, Marsel Van Oosten.