Listening Script Vocabulary
(Section 4: You will hear a talk on the topic of evergreening. First, you will have some time to look at questions 31 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 31 to 40.)
Good afternoon and welcome to today’s lecture on the subject of ‘evergreening’ and the issues this causes with pharmaceutical companies and patients alike.
Now, let’s begin with a little background. Pharmaceutical companies protect the drugs they have spent time and money creating with protections called patents. A patent is the legal right protecting the person or company that has created a new invention, whether that is a product, an idea or a formula. It allows the owner of the patent to take legal action against others who use his invention without his permission.
Big pharmaceutical companies make big profits. Their useful new drugs are patented, protecting them from competition and allowing the owner of the patents to charge high prices. When the patent ends, other companies are allowed to supply the previously patented drug. These are known as generic drugs. The prices of generic drugs are much lower than the prices of in-patent drugs – it has been suggested that for widely used drugs price falls can be as much as 95%.
On average, a patent provides protection from competition for about 14 years. But, of course, companies like monopolies and would like to extend the patent period. Over the past few decades they have used a process known as ‘evergreening’ to keep generic companies out of the market for longer.
So, how does evergreening work? Evergreening is achieved by seeking extra patents on variations of the original drug – new forms of release, new dosages, new combinations or new forms. Pharmaceutical companies refer to this as ‘lifecycle management’. Even if the change to the previous drug is tiny, the company can make a new patent and so continue to sell the drug at a higher price.
Brand pharmaceutical companies argue that these ‘lifecycle management’ patents provide improved health outcomes to the community and that they meet the thresholds of novelty and inventiveness required to get a new patent. Critics argue that the claimed improved health outcomes are small or non-existent.