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[e-drug] Global patent database for pharmaceuticals (2)

  • From: "Robert Weissman" <rob@essential.org>
  • Date: Fri, 08 Aug 2008 11:01:44 -0400

E-DRUG: Global patent database for pharmaceuticals (2)

Dear Ziyan Wang,

There is no such database.

Many of us are advocating for creation of a database, and this has been
a contentious issue at the World Health Organization's Intergovernmental
Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

Here is a short background paper we did making the case for a patent


MSF in conjunction with WHO has in the past generated a database for
patent status of ARVs. This is contained in the paper:
Determining the patent status of essential medicines in developing
countries. Health economics and drugs. EDM series No.17

The paper is linked here:


This focuses on selected countries only.

WHO has done follow-up work on this for ARVs, but the results remain

As you'll see from looking at the material, there are very major
obstacles to any person determining patent status for a drug globally,
or even in a single country. (Indeed, we know from experience that
sometimes even a national patent office is unable to determine whether
there are patents covering a drug.)

The United States and Canada have systems that enable you to check
easily whether a drug is patented in those countries, although at least
in the case of the United States, this system does not cover most
biologics, which constitute many of the most important new medicines.

The searchable U.S. system is available here:


You search for drug name, click on the formulation you want, then click
on patent and exclusivity information.

This does not tell you whether the claimed patents are valid -- this can
typically only be tested in litigation -- but it does tell you what is

It does not follow that patent claims in the United States have also
been made in other countries. For newer drugs, however, it is likely
that similar claims (at least on patents on the molecule) have been
filed in other industrialized countries, in most middle-income
countries, and in some poorer countries (depending in part on what
conditions the molecule is thought to treat).

Robert Weissman
Essential Action
E-mail: <rob@essential.org>