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Incremental innovation brings benefits, argue manufacturers

By News team

The importance of incremental innovation in improving medicines has been highlighted in a from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), launched today (25 February 2013).

The report seeks to dispel the perception that incremental medicines are trivial and to illustrate how biopharmaceutical innovation benefits patients. It explains that incremental innovation is the process of exploring and improving existing medicines, for example, expanding existing therapeutic classes by modifying molecular structures, reformulating medicines to reduce dosing frequency or exploring new uses for existing medicines. It is often influenced by insights from healthcare professionals during the post-marketing surveillance phase, which help researchers to identify unmet patient needs, the report says.

The IFPMA explains that some commentators claim that obtaining patents for medicines based on incremental improvements is a strategy to delay the market entry of generics. However, it points out that patents relating to a subsequent improvement of an existing medicine will not prolong the patent term of the original medicine.

"Once the patent exclusivity period of the existing medicine expires, any firm, regardless of the patenting activity related to a subsequent improvement, may begin to produce and market that medicine so long as appropriate regulatory requirements are met. Thereafter, only patient needs will determine whether there is a demand for the subsequent improved medicine," the report states.

The report gives examples of incremental innovations, such as adapting the antifungal medicine ravuconazole to treat Chagas disease and modifying the pharmacokinetics and mode of action of interferon alfa to increase cure rates for hepatitis C.

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11117673

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