Drug companies questioned over Australian patent system

GENERIC drug companies may be abusing the patent system, according to new research showing the practice is potentially costing Australia's health system billions of dollars.

Melbourne Law School examined the patents for 15 high-cost drugs in Australia spanning the past two decades.

It found an average of 50 patents covered each drug, most of which were not owned by the drug's original inventor.

By creating an alternative formula or delivery for the drug, these companies could be keeping the price of pharmaceuticals needlessly high.

In the past 20 years, the 15 drugs examined by the Melbourne Law School cost Australia more than $17 billion to supply.

Lead author Professor Andrew Christie said there were concerns the companies creating these drugs were pushing up the price, but it could be that the generic drug firms riding on their coattails were also to blame.

"There are suspicions that abusive patenting by the big pharmaceutical companies is keeping that cost high," he said.

"Our research shows that patenting by generic manufacturers and other players may be just as important."

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