Drugs and patents

 

Sir, – I refer to “Call to lengthen cancer drug patent to reduce cost” (February 16th).

At best, this “call” is misguided as drugs under patent are many times more expensive than their generic equivalent. Patents permit the inventor of a drug to charge whatever price they believe the consumer is willing to pay, without fear of competition.

Pharmaceutical companies must seek to maximise the profit for their shareholders, and so it is logical that any extension to a patent period would be used to this end.

Once a patent expires, the drug can be manufactured by competitors at a small fraction of the original price.

It is for this reason that such organisations as Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam campaign against the patent system and advocate for alternative mechanisms to reward drug research and development. – Yours, etc,

Dr KIERAN HARKIN,

Primary Care Centre,

Inchicore,

Dublin 8.