Publications

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'Linkage' Pharmaceutical Evergreening in Canada and Australia

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‘Evergreening’ is not a formal concept of patent law. It is best understood as a social idea used to refer to the myriad ways in which pharmaceutical patent owners utilise the law and related regulatory processes to extend their high rent-earning intellectual monopoly privileges, particularly over highly profitable (either in total sales volume or price per unit) ‘blockbuster’ drugs. Thus, while the courts are an instrument frequently used by pharmaceutical brand name manufacturers to prolong their patent royalties, ‘evergreening’ is rarely mentioned explicitly by judges in patent protection cases. The term usually refers to threats made to competitors about a brand-name manufacturer’s tactical use of pharmaceutical patents (including over uses, delivery systems and even packaging), not to extension of any particular patent over an active product ingredient. This article focuses in particular on the ‘evergreening’ potential of so-called ‘linkage’ provisions, imposed on the regulatory (safety, quality and efficacy) approval systems for generic pharmaceuticals of Canada and Australia, by specific articles in trade agreements with the US. These ‘linkage’ provisions have also recently appeared in the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUSFTA). They require such drug regulators to facilitate notification of, or even prevent, any potential patent infringement by a generic pharmaceutical manufacturer. This article explores the regulatory lessons to be learnt from Canada’s and Australia’s shared experience in terms of minimizing potential adverse impacts of such ‘linkage evergreening’ provisions on drug costs and thereby potentially on citizen’s access to affordable, essential medicines.

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