Advocating for an improved patent applications process in Ukraine

The decision to grant or refuse a patent has an impact on the price of essential medicines – and huge improvements are needed to this process.

This month, (3 March), in a bid to improve the patent laws in Ukraine, our partner the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS brought their expertise in access to medicines to a significant, national roundtable event.

The event, Human rights and intellectual property: international experience of pharmaceutical patent applications examination, is another step towards increasing access to essential medicines. The Network were joined by specialists from the Scientific and Research Institute of Intellectual Property, Ukrainian Patent and Trademark Office experts, as well as other leading national experts in patent law.

The presentations and discussions included:

  • Directions of patent law reform in medical and pharmaceutical spheres, by Oksana Kashyntseva, Head of Industrial Property Department at Scientific and Research Institute of Intellectual Property;
  • Modern patenting practices from the expert point of view, by Sergii Petrenko, Head of Expert Research Center at Scientific and Research In
    stitute of Intellectual Property;
  • International experience of pharmaceutical patent applications examination by Mykyta Trofymenko, Intellectual Property Counsel at All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and Oksana Yefimchuk, Patent Attorney, Head of Intellectual Property at Jurimex Law Firm;

Trofymenko highlighted how decisions made by Patent and Trademark (PTO) experts have an affect on the price of medicines.

“The PTO decision to grant or refuse a patent has a huge impact on the price of essential medicines,” says Trofymenko. “For example, as a result of the decision to grant two questionable secondary patents for lopinavir/ritonavir, Ukraine now significantly overpays for these drugs. Generic, quality assured, versions are roughly one-third of the price. The funds ploughed into these over-priced drugs could instead be used to get a significant number of additional patients on treatment.”

In contrast, the PTO decision to refuse the sofosbuvir patent applications contributed to a reduction of prices, and currently the price for this medicine in Ukraine is one of the lowest in the region.”

The roundtable’s discussions centred around the current problems within the patent application examination and the opportunities presented by learning from international best practice. The key debate was on how to balance the interests of patients with those of the patent applicants.

“It is obvious that Ukraine needs to improve the patent examination procedures aimed at preventing unjust monopolies and increasing access to the essential medicines,” says Sergiy Kondratyuk, the Network’s Legal Specialist on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines. “As international experience demonstrates, more detailed legal provisions about requirements to patent applications are key in preventing unmerited patents granting and make the work of patent experts more efficient and convenient. Improving the system will significantly decrease the price of essential medicines in the long run and stimulate the local manufacturing of these medicines.”

Attendees concurred that this issue is of high importance for access to medicines in the country. Without improvements to the process it won’t be possible to achieve any significant improvements to access to medicines. This core group of experts will now schedule a series of imminent meetings required in order to advance this goal, specifically to work on proposals to improve the legislation that regulates how pharmaceutical patent applications are considered.