Canada must improve and strengthen its intellectual property (IP) regime to close the gap with other leading industrialized countries if it is to attract pharmaceutical R&D, warns a new report.

In order to spark growth and attract jobs in the life sciences sector, the nation needs to: - level the playing field between innovative pharmaceutical companies and generics; - provide internationally-competitive protection for the data produced by innovators; and - protect innovators’ discoveries from regulatory and other delays in the approval process, according to the report, which was issued this week by the Canadian Intellectual Property Council (CIPC).

The study has been published as Canada and the European Union (EU) conduct negotiations aimed at expanding trade that could, according to the Council, produce an estimated C$10.7 billion in benefits for Canada over seven years. The EU is calling on Canada to improve IP rights to meet international standards as part of the negotiations.

IP reforms previously made by the federal government have resulted in “tremendous investment and growth to Canada,” says Bob Weese, chairman of the CIPC, which is part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. However, “in the past few years, we have seen that the time and investment needed to discover, develop and bring to market new medicines have significantly increased, and our IP framework has not kept pace with this change,” adds Mr Weese, who is vice president, government and external relations at GE Canada.

While Canada’s pharmaceutical industry is doing all it can to attract investment, it cannot do it alone, commented the Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, Perrin Beatty. “This report shows that the EU and many jurisdictions provide better IP protection and, as a result, offer a more advantageous investment climate. Canada must keep pace if we want to fulfil the promise of creating jobs and investment in our pharmaceutical sector,” he said.

The report’s findings build on the recent work of the Coalition for Action on Innovation in Canada, an organization of leaders from business, academia and the research community which in October called on Canada to adopt “the world’s strongest IP regime” as part of a 10-point action plan to promote job creation and economic prosperity.

Among the CIPC study’s conclusions are that: - patient care is best served by making new innovations available; - new medicines save valuable dollars by helping to reduce the number of expensive hospital stays and surgeries; - global investment in the pharmaceutical industry is very portable and competitive, and a stable and internationally competitive IP regime is a key investment consideration; - other advanced jurisdictions have stronger IP regimes than Canada’s which recognize the value of innovation; - Canada’s existing patent protection has been further eroded by regulatory delays; and - failure to improve and strengthen IP safeguards will see opportunities and jobs go elsewhere.