Extend patent protection to reduce drug prices, says Italian pharma chief

ROME, Jan 24 (APM) - Extending the duration of market exclusivity for innovative drugs could be a way to reduce prices and encourage pharma to continue investing in R&D, according to the head of the Italian pharma association Farmindustria.
Speaking after an event at medicines agency AIFA in Rome on Thursday, Massimo Scaccabarozzi, who is chief executive of Janssen in Italy, stressed the need for an informed debate about the costs of drugs.
"There is a lot of confusion about the pharma market at the moment and too little understanding about the value of medicines," he told APM.
He suggested comparisons between the pharma industry and auto manufacturers are misleading. "We are not just assembling different parts on a production line. Ours is a science-based process which is long, costly and with no guarantees about a final product," he explained.
He also stressed the need to differentiate between generics and originator products. "Billions of euros are spent in developing new drugs and it only takes a fraction of that to make a copy of it. Cutting the prices of drugs will reduce the costs but it will probably mean companies stop doing research," he warned.

Extend market exclusivity to improve access, incentivise R&D

Scaccabarozzi suggested that a longer period of market exclusivity would be a more effective alternative. "It would mean lower prices because companies would have more time to make a return on investments. That would lead to improved access but also incentivise the development of new drugs," he argued.
The Farmindustria chief said scientific advances are creating significant opportunities in the development of new and better treatments. "The pace of innovation is not always appreciated. New drugs increase life expectancy in the countries where they are available. Used effectively, they can also help reduce other health costs over the long term," he said.

State-owned pharma not the solution

Scaccabarozzi noted that there have been proposals for state-owned pharmaceutical companies to be set up to produce drugs as a way of keeping prices lower. He made clear he does not think they are the solution. "It would be interesting to see what they ended up producing. You cannot just start manufacturing drugs out of nothing," he said.
The Farmindustria president welcomed the development of a partnership between AIFA and the competition authority Autorità della Concorrenza e del Mercato to oversee Italy's pharma market. He made his comments about drug prices after attending the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the two bodies at AIFA's headquarters on Thursday (APMHE 51412).
It is aimed at creating a more extensive watchdog role over drugs reimbursement spending, pricing and counterfeiting. As a part of the partnership, AIFA will share information about drug price negotiations with the competition authority.

Partnership between AIFA, competition body seen positively

"I have been encouraged by what I heard," Scaccabarozzi said. "It was made clear that this an important market for the Italian economy. We welcome regulation that increases efficiency."
Both AIFA's director general, Mario Melazzini, and his counterpart at AGCM, Giovanni Pitruzzella, stressed that one of the aims of the initiative is to create an attractive environment for pharma investment.
"It was made clear that Italy's pharma market is competitive and functions well. The increased regulatory focus will increase the country's appeal for pharma investment," Scaccabarozzi said.



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