Gene Bill threatens access to biologic medicines

Banning patents on biological materials will harm Australian patients, destroy Australian jobs and stall medical research, Medicines Australia has told a Senate Committee.In its submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the Patent Amendment (Human Genes and Biological Materials) Bill 2010, Medicines Australia warned that the Bill could severely restrict patients’ access to biological medicines.

Medicines Australia submitted a list of 28 commonly prescribed biological medicines which potentially would never have been marketed in Australia had the proposed legislation been in place.

The medicines include Herceptin for breast cancer, Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis, Mabthera for leukaemia, Remicade for Crohn’s disease and Lucentis for macular degeneration.

“Had a ban on patents on biological materials been in place 10 years ago, Australians today would likely not have access to many of these medicines”, the submission says.

“These medicines would have been ineligible for patent protection and the companies which developed them would, in many cases, not have sought to market them in Australia.

“Biological medicines represent the cutting edge of medicine. They have already revolutionised the field and in time biological medicines are likely to deliver the most effective means of treating a variety of illnesses and disabilities.

“Over 250 innovative human-use biologics have been approved since 1990 and more than 400 are currently under development globally, targeting diseases such as cancer, AIDS, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

Medicines Australia also warned of “devastating consequences for the Australian biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries” if biological patents were banned.

“A ban would invalidate patents on hundreds of products currently in development in Australia.

“This Bill is well-intentioned, but it is important to ensure that there are no unintended consequences for patients, businesses or medical researchers.”

A copy of the submission is available here


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