25.1 The existence of gene patents may make the provision of certain kinds of healthcare more expensive. A patent grants exclusive rights to exploit the patented invention. This exclusivity may enable the patent holder, or its licensee, to charge higher prices and make greater profits for the invention than would otherwise be possible in a competitive market.[1] Higher prices for patented genetic inventions may also have an adverse effect on the conduct of research.

25.2 While there is little evidence to date that gene patents and licensing practices have had any significant impact on the cost of healthcare provision in Australia, expressions of concern about gene patents are often based on assumptions that patent holders or their exclusive licensees will charge monopoly prices.

25.3 This Report makes a range of recommendations intended to facilitate access to patented genetic materials and technologies, on reasonable terms. These include encouraging industry-based initiatives to facilitate patent licensing,[2] and clarifying, and encouraging the use of, the Crown use and compulsory licensing provisions of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth).[3]

25.4 In addition, various forms of prices oversight are available to the Australian Government, and are examined in this chapter. If evidence arises that the pricing of patented genetic inventions is having an adverse impact on access to healthcare services, the Government could use these mechanisms to investigate firm or industry pricing practices.

[1] See Ch 19.

[2] See Ch 22.

[3] See Ch 26, 27.