These points are based on a report from the Fraser Institute entitled ‘The Benefits of Incremental Innovation’.
1. The economist Robert Gordon is of the view that western societies have reached a scientific plateau and now there will be a decline in the usefulness of future inventions compared to past inventions. Other academics believe that there is presently too much ‘imitative’ incremental innovation and too little ‘breakthrough’ innovation, and the pharmaceutical sector is pinpointed as a particular area for this concern.
2. Innovation can be classified into incremental (improving existing products), breakthrough (providing more substantial changes to technologies) and radical (creating drastic changes to the competitive environment and perhaps even creating entirely new businesses).
3. There is a feeling that managers of companies are more risk averse to innovation than shareholders would prefer.
4. In the pharmaceutical field incremental innovation does provide benefits to patients and helps cost-cutting. Incremental innovation will often be based on improving the ways of delivering known drugs, making them more effective or reducing side-effects.
5. There is controversy as to whether patents that protect incremental innovations in the field of medicine are ‘legitimate’ or whether this is simply an attempt to extend patent protection on the drug itself (so called ‘evergreening’). India has specific legislation designed to stop evergreening of drugs.
6. The report ultimately concludes that incremental innovation is beneficial. However we believe that this is a very complex topic where the discussion is ongoing.
The report can be found here.
Our IPKat article on IP and medicines can be found here.
Our PatLit article on innovation and the IP system can be found here.
You may also wish to see related articles 10 Observations on Different Types of Research and 10 Points About the State of the Pharma/Biotech Sector.