Reviews | Patents protect people’s access to life-saving medicines


In his May 29 Outlook essay, “Spring cleaning 2022: The patent system,” Joseph E. Stiglitz argued that patents hinder the “widest dissemination of the benefits of innovation” and that a “state-funded monetary prize for scientists” would be a better alternative.

Mr. Stiglitz’s proposition is totally impractical and unproven. Private investors invested more than $129 billion in medical research and development in the United States alone in 2018, more than three times the contribution of the U.S. government and more than 20 times the total budget of the Organization global health. Nothing can replace private capital in drug development. Moreover, history has shown that entrepreneurship and a vibrant market are more likely to drive invention than government awards.

And without intellectual property protection, no investor would back risky R&D projects, where the end product costs more than $1 billion to develop, on average, and has only a 12% chance of passing clinical trials. . If our intellectual property system is scrapped and investors flee, then the public will really pay – in lives lost without access to cutting-edge treatments.

John Stanford, Washington

The author is executive director of Incubate, a Washington-based coalition of life science venture capitalists.


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