One of the main characteristics of the pharmaceutical industry, including biotechnology, is the important role played by public institutions. Their role is not only focused on encouraging research and development (R&D), but also on regulation of the final product market. The special characteristics of the pharmaceutical industry and its economic importance for many nations imply that governments have a strong interest in supporting the efficient functioning of the industry.
Improving the health and life expectancy of the populations of the less developed countries of the world requires both better access to medicines and research and development (R&D) of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. Achieving the latter is a critical part of a package of steps needed to treat and ultimately eradicate the infectious diseases prevalent predominately in the poorest regions of the developing world.
This study provides a life cycle perspective on cross-national differences in pharmaceutical prices, volumes and expenditures. Most previous studies have focused solely on cross-national differences in drug prices, comparing prices for a small sample of branded products at a single point in time. However, policymakers are increasingly concerned with total drug expenditures, which reflect volume and average prices for all products.
A number of potentially important structural developments are taking place in the pharmaceutical industry. On the one hand, we are witnessing a large number of mergers and acquisitions between companies across countries, suggesting a move towards a small number of large global players. On the other hand, a large number of new companies have entered in the industry over the past 15 years. Many are biotechnology companies that specialise in research and/or developing technologies for the discovery and pre-clinical stages of the research and development (R&D) process.
It has long been known that a medicine may turn out to have an unexpected beneficial effect on an illness other than the one it was originally intended to treat. This is true for long established medicines, for example the cardiovascular benefits of aspirin, and for more recent products, of which Sildenafil (Viagra) is a dramatic example. Such instances are not rare and serendipidity has been a highly significant aspect of progress as illustrated by Julius Comroe’s (1977) fascinating dissection of the antecedents of some of the seminal advances in medicine.
The UK and Germany are the European leaders in biotechnology. They have many more companies and employees in biotechnology, and much greater sums invested in biotechnology research and development (R&D) than anywhere else in Europe. The two countries’ biotechnology sectors display important differences, however. Also, both remain well behind the US, the global leader in terms of number, size, maturity and profitability of biotechnology companies.
Most countries regulate manufacturer prices for pharmaceuticals, either directly (France, Italy) or indirectly through controls on reimbursement (Germany, Japan) or profits (the UK). It is widely believed that drug prices are lower in countries with strict price regulation than in countries with less restrictive regulation (the UK) or no regulation (the US). For example, the BEUC (1989b) concluded that prices in the UK and the US were, respectively, 20 and 54 percent above the EEC average, whereas those in France and Italy were, respectively, 30 and 28 percent below the EEC average.
This Conference on Genomics, Healthcare and Public Policy, organised by the Office of Health Economics in collaboration with the School of Public Policy, University College London, and Pharmaceutical Partners for Better Healthcare, examined the status and likely consequences of healthcare applications of genetics. Advances in genetics will open up opportunities for universities and industry, they will induce changes in the practice of medicine, and lead to alterations in the structure and organization of health services in many countries.
A trade mark is, in its most basic sense, a badge of identity. Its most essential characteristic is its capacity to distinguish one undertaking's goods or services from those of another. This function is reflected in the legal definition of a trade mark in the law of the European Union (EU) and its Member States, which states:
'...a 'trade mark' means any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.'2