Australia falling behind on innovation

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Australia is falling behind in the race to promote biopharmaceutical innovation according to a new report.

The report, 2016 Biopharmaceutical Competitiveness Survey, is based on a global survey of country managers and their teams across 26 markets. The markets are grouped as 'mature', which includes Australia, and 'newcomer'.

The report has been developed by international consultancy, Pugatch Consilium.

It ranks countries based on responses to questions in five categories: scientific and clinical capabilities; quality of the regulatory framework; market access conditions; intellectual property environment; and, recent pertinent policy issues.

According to the report, the top-ranking mature markets - US, UK and Switzerland - prioritise innovation within a broader biopharmaceutical policy ecosystem.

"These economies rely most on market-based instruments and models that reward innovation within the pricing and reimbursement system and promote technology transfer. They also seek to provide a highly streamlined regulatory framework, advanced IP protection and favorable tax conditions," it says.

Australia, which ranked with Canada and Italy as the least competitive mature markets, was given an overall score of 67.5 per cent, placing it in the 'falling behind' category.

Australia scored below average in a comparison with the nine other mature markets in all five categories, although respondents indicated progress in some based on recent government initiatives.

In scientific and clinical capabilities, while it scored well on the level of scientific research, Australia did poorly on the lack of incentives for collaboration between industry and researchers. The poor performance on translational research has been consistently identified over the years by successive government reports and is a strategic focus of the Turnbull government's National Innovation and Science Agenda.

A similar story for Australia on clinical research, with strong marks for capabilities but marked down for well-recognised issues with approval times and costs.

The report says Australia's regulatory system ranks as "one of the most challenging among mature markets" in terms of delays. However, respondents acknowledged the potential positive impact of reforms recently announced as past of government's response to the review of medicines and medical devices, including the adoption of an 'expedited pathway'.

Australia scored badly on market access.

"Price controls are viewed as highly restrictive, with a heavy focus on price and cost (including recent price cuts) undermining competitiveness."

It scored positively for the R&D Tax Incentive, despite recent cuts to the program and additional proposed changes.

On intellectual property, Australia was marked down for its five-year data protection period, which the report says is "considered to be out of sync with other developed countries, eroding market attractiveness."

It also highlighted ongoing legal action by government against several companies seeking damages for allegedly delaying the entry of generic medicines. The report says executives believe this "introduces significant uncertainty and risks to R&D investment."