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July 17, 2013

Balancing Access and Innovation: India’s Supreme Court Rules on Imatinib

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, US Department of Health and Human Services, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA. 2013;310(3):263-264. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.7336

The World Intellectual Property Organization defines a patent as “an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.”1 Patents provide their owners with these exclusive rights for a limited period of time to stimulate investment in innovation. The tension between providing a reward for innovation and the imperative to make the fruits of innovation widely available has confounded policy makers for centuries. James Madison, who helped convince Thomas Jefferson to include protection for patents in US law, wrote of his own concerns about patents more than 180 years ago: “grants of this sort can be justified in very peculiar cases only, if at all; the danger being very great that the good resulting from the operation of the monopoly, will be overbalanced by the evil effect of the precedent; and it being not impossible that the monopoly itself, in its original operation, may produce more evil than good.”2

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