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Unprofitable Ivermectin and Other Repurposed Treatments

What happens to medications after their intellectual property rights expire?

Does big pharma want to squash repurposed drugs, such as Ivermectin, because they are not profitable?

Patent attorney Joe Runge says, “that ultimately science is really expensive, that it takes a lot of money to do any clinical study.” He adds, “ultimately we do have a system where it is either really difficult to get public money, to do it and takes a long time, or you need to have a profit motive exposed behind it.”

Critically, the existing incentive structure favors creating new drugs to cure diseases as opposed to repurposed treatments with expired intellectual property rights. Drug patents are valid for 20 years after the medication has been invented. Under non-pandemic circumstances, eight years of testing to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is fairly common. 

It’s estimated that once a patented drug expires, sales drop by 80% on the generic version. Joe Runge ended by saying, “I think that there are incentive structures that do make the pharmaceutical company motivated to either limit or ensure that those studies don't come through because ultimately you're right. They want to be able to have profitable drugs, be the cures to the diseases that are present now.”

When a patent attorney mentions that the contradiction between incentive structures and research, that should be cause for pause.

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