Development Time and Patent Extension for Prescription Drugs in Canada: A Cohort Study

Document Type : Short Communication


1 School of Health Policy and Management, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada

2 University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada

3 Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada


The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union provides for an extension of Canadian patents for prescription drugs by up to 2 years. One of the arguments advanced for longer patent time is to compensate companies for the length of the overall drug development time (the time between patent application and market approval). This study investigates overall development time in Canada for different groups of drugs approved between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2018 and how many of these drugs are eligible for up to 2 years of patent term extension. Based on a list of patents and dates of market approval, the change in overall development time for all drugs was calculated along with whether there were differences in development time between different groups of drugs. Using Canadian patent filing dates, overall development time for all drugs went from a mean of 2240 days (95% CI: 1832, 2648) in 2009 to 4197 days (95% CI: 3728, 4665) in 2018 (analysis of variance [ANOVA], P < .0001). Using first global patent filing dates, overall development time went from a mean of 4481 days (95% CI: 3053, 5908) in 2009 to 6298 days (95% CI: 4839, 7756) in 2018 (ANOVA, P = .0118). There was a statistically significant difference in the overall development mean time between small molecule drugs (3553, 95% CI: 3361, 3746) and biologics (3903, 95% CI: 3595, 4212), (t test, P = .0487) when using Canadian patent filing dates but not when first global patent filing dates were used. There was no statistically significant change in overall development time among drugs that were substantial, moderate or little to none additional therapeutic value compared to existing drugs. Out of 238 drugs, 218 (91.6%) would have been eligible for patent term extension with 195 (80.7%) eligible for the full 2 years. Patent term extension does not appear to be justified based on changes in overall development time, except possibly in the case of biologics. There are also trade offs in terms of increased expenditures that need to be considered if patent terms are lengthened.



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Volume 10, Issue 8
August 2021
Pages 495-499
  • Receive Date: 22 January 2020
  • Revise Date: 09 June 2020
  • Accept Date: 09 June 2020
  • First Publish Date: 01 August 2021