Will longer antimicrobial patents improve global public health?

Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Aug;7(8):559-66. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(07)70188-3.


The problem of antimicrobial resistance has led some infectious disease experts and their professional societies to propose the use of transferable intellectual property rights (wildcard patents) and patent term extensions as methods to encourage antimicrobial research and development. We evaluate recent approvals of new antimicrobial classes and find that the number of new introductions is higher than previously suggested. More importantly, creating new patent rights is shown to be an inefficient and possibly counterproductive response to antimicrobial resistance. Wildcard patents would operate as a more than US$40 billion annual tax on heart disease, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and depression to inefficiently cross-subsidise antimicrobial research and development. Patent term extensions would likewise cost more than $5 billion per year, hinder access, and allocate resources inefficiently. Alternative uses for these funds are proposed, with greater potential positive effects on global public health. Additional public funding of antimicrobial research could be a more effective use of these funds. Conservation efforts to encourage the prudent use of antimicrobial drugs should be directly reimbursed. Patent owners should be compensated for both conservation efforts and valuable innovation.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / economics*
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Global Health*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Patents as Topic / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Time Factors
  • United States


  • Anti-Infective Agents