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Why Follow-On Pharmaceutical Innovations Should Be Eligible For Patent Protection

October 14, 2019 / CHRISTOPHER M. HOLMAN

Despite the important role of intellectual property rights in incentivizing innovation, the patenting of pharmaceutical innovation is frequently accused of impeding access to medicine. Criticism of the prevailing patent regime has focused in particular on patents directed towards follow-on pharmaceutical innovation, i.e., innovation that seeks to improve upon existing pharmaceuticals and their use in treating patients. Patents on follow-on innovation are often derided as “secondary” patents, with the implication that the underlying inventions are somehow lesser in nature than the subject matter claimed in “primary” patents, i.e., the drug active ingredient per se.