Revue Prescrire, article en une, Medicines in Europe October 2003
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Medicines in Europe:
Excessive protectionism for some drug companies is unacceptable
If amendments excessively prolonging commercial exclusivity for drug companies were voted, it would have huge consequences on health care systems in all EU member states. This unjustified escalation must be prevented.
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"Data protection" for prescription drugs
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Protection of drugs switched to self-medication
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The invention of "biogenerics"
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"Excessive protectionism for some drug companies is unacceptable"

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Medicines in Europe: campaigning goes on!
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Naturally enough, all enterprises seek to exploit their market niches for as long as possible particularly when their products are sold at high price.

Drug companies are no exception, and tend to go to great lengths for preserving a market monopoly, especially in these times of weak innovation and rare drugs of major therapeutic value. One strategy is to delay the arrival of generic drugs once the patents have expired.

The ongoing revision of European legislation on medicinal products is seen by the pharmaceutical industry as an opportunity to further strengthen their dominant position. They are thus lobbying intensively for a Directive and Regulation that would support the following three privileges:
•prolonged "data protection" for prescription drugs;
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•data protection for existing prescription drugs newly approved for self-medication ("OTC switch");
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•the concept of "biogenerics", drugs which could not be approved as easily as common "generics".
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It is perfectly normal to reward drug companies for their research and development, when relevant to society's needs with commercial exclusivity. But the economic and pseudoscientific pretexts being forwarded to further lengthen this exclusivity period in Europe, where it is already among the longest in the world, are unjustifiable.
It is time to stop artificially sustaining drug companies by giving them excessive monopoly positions. It would be better to offer them incentives to develop drugs with real therapeutic advantages, especially for patients with no effective treatment.

©Medicines in Europe Forum 15 October 2003