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Australia reviews patent term for pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical companies could find the life of their patents cut short in Australia after the government announced it is rethinking provisions that enable patent rights to be extended for up to five years

Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, said yesterday that the government has set up a panel to review extension arrangements for pharmaceutical patents.

“In certain circumstances, pharmaceutical patents can be extended by up to five years beyond the normal patent term. These provisions were introduced back in 1998, and are due for review,” he said.

He added that the review has been launched following concern about the difficulties of bringing generic products to market.

The three-person panel will be chaired by Tony Harris, former NSW Auditor-General and Parliamentary Budget Officer, with academic Dianne Nicol and Nicholas Gruen of Lateral Economics.

Dreyfus said the review will consider issues that affect competition between drugs makers, the importance of the patent system to fostering innovation, international approaches to extending patent term for pharmaceutical products, and Australia’s commitments under trade deals and its membership of the WTO.

The Panel's final report is due to be provided to the government early next year. A public consultation process will form part of the review.

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