australia flagThe Australian government has released the draft report of its Pharmaceutical Patents Review, which had been tasked to “review the effectiveness of the Australian patent system in providing timely access to affordable pharmaceutical and medical treatments and supporting innovation.”  The report considered domestic law on patents, data exclusivity, and pharmaceuticals, as well as Australia’s current trade obligations and its position in ongoing trade negotiations.

The full report is available here. It is open for comment through April 30.

The draft report makes a series of findings and recommendations.  It is critical of patent extensions, especially for formulation and use patents.  Likewise, it is suspicious of increased data exclusivity for biologics.  It is skeptical that either of these types of measures bring benefit in the form of increased innovation.

One particular recommendation proposes changing the way pharmaceutical R&D is funded:

Draft Recommendation 5, Option 5.1:

The current model of using the patents system to subsidise pharmaceutical R&D indirectly should be replaced with a direct subsidy. To this end, the Government should reduce extensions of term for pharmaceutical patents and use part of the associated savings to fund R&D directly. Some of this funding should be targeted to socially beneficial research for which patents provide inadequate incentives to conduct. Such areas include new antibiotics which, once developed, must be used as sparingly as possible to prevent the development of antibodies and pharmaceuticals to address rare diseases, pediatric illnesses and endemic health issues in low income countries.

This option could also include an annual review of the savings delivered through any reduction in the length of extensions of term to be used in allocating funding to the replacement R&D subsidies.

The commission that authored the report was composed of Tony Harris, Dianne Nicol, and Nicholas Gruen.  The process by which the draft report was prepared is explained on the Pharmaceutical Patents Review website, which also has copies of the comments they have recieved.