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Lipitor might be cheaper -- but it's bad news for Ireland Inc

GOOD news for patients, but the advent of cheaper Lipitor is a real worry for Ireland Inc.

That's because Ireland produces five of the 12 global best-selling patent-protected drugs -- Lipitor among them.

Forget Google and Facebook, these are the economic superstars -- just those five drugs generate combined sales of around €20bn every year.

The patent is crucial to those big numbers, however, because when a drug comes 'off-patent' any manufacturer is allowed to produce the treatment that up until then could only be made under licence.

If a drug is effective or popular, like Lipitor, manufacturers pile in as soon as the patent ends, producing masses of the product and driving down prices.

In many instances the generic replacements are manufactured in lower-cost countries and by specialist companies that, unlike the big drugs, simply don't have a presence here.

And most worryingly its by no means an isolated case, indeed as an economy we are absolutely hooked on those patent-protected drugs to drive exports, and the patents are running out fast.

Irish Independent