Want a sense of just how screwed up the incentives of our patent system are today? Purdue Pharma, the makers of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, is now running clinical tests to get the FDA to approve its use for kids as young as 6-years-old
. Why? Because the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act section 505A includes a little "gift": if drugmakers conduct clinical studies for their drugs with kids, they can get six more months
of patent protection. So even if they don't even sell OxyContin to six year olds, just securing the extended patent, thanks to the massive
monopoly rents given to drugs still on patent, Purdue is likely to profit massively. Lots of people are reasonably troubled by this:
“They are doing (the pediatric trial) for patent exclusivity, there’s no doubt about it in my mind — not out of largesse,” said Dr. Elliot Krane, director of pain management at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. “That’s important for their bottom line.”
Of course, some will argue that if this provides better drug availability to kids, and those drugs really help the kids, then perhaps this isn't a bad thing. But, no matter what, the incentives here are highly questionable.