Opinions and Editorials

Mar. 4, 2022

Fortune: Lawmakers Want to Weaken U.S. Patents That Made New Anti-COVID Pills Possible. We Should Do Everything to Protect Them by Andrei Iancu, David Kappos, and Paul Michel

The FDA recently authorized two antiviral pills, Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Lagevrio, to treat Covid-19. The treatments can reduce the risk of death in high-risk patients by up to 89% and 30%, respectively.

These drugs could effectively end the pandemic, not by preventing infections but rather by turning a potentially fatal illness into something more like a cold or minor flu.

These treatments weren’t developed by accident. The U.S. biopharmaceutical industry collectively invests over $100 billion annually in research and development. Most research projects never pan out, and even the ones that ultimately do often take a decade or more to bring a drug from the lab to pharmacy shelves.

Companies are only willing and able to make those investments thanks to America’s world-leading intellectual property system. Patents, statutory exclusivity periods, and other forms of IP protections enable firms to raise capital in the first place, and later recoup their huge upfront costs and earn returns that can be plowed back into additional research projects.

That’s why it’s so concerning that some lawmakers are working to weaken the intellectual property system, given the importance of that system in securing the rights of inventors in their creative accomplishments.