March-in rights on Federally funded research have not been effective at securing access to medicines. Non-exclusive licensing should be pursued instead.

“The past 3 decades of experience suggests that march-in rights will never effectively combat excessive pricing or inadequate supply of medical products emerging from government funding. These rights may be useful only as a safeguard to prevent federally funded inventions from being acquired and left fully undeveloped— although that unlikely circumstance has not been documented to have occurred since 1980—or as a negotiating tool to extract minor concessions from patent holders…

The NIH’s rejection of march-in rights petitions does not leave the government powerless; Congress can issue compulsory licenses, giving permission to other companies to produce any patented product in times of extraordinary patient need…

Change could also be achieved through local action. In addition to profit for their institutions, university technology transfer offices consider the public health benefit of their patented products. If universities issued more non-exclusive licenses of their products, there would be less need to rely on march-in rights. Even though non-exclusive licenses may bring lower royalty rates, they can be successful in helping bring to market essential therapeutic technologies.”

Carolyn L. Treasure; Jerry Avorn; Aaron S. Kesselheim. What Is the Public’s Right to Access Medical Discoveries Based on Federally Funded Research? JAMA. 2014;311(9):907-908. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.404 


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