The Economist is one of my favorite magazines and I am quite happy I recently got subscriptions from both my mom and Jamuna.
This recent article just gave me an idea for reforming both the patent office and the FDA- tie approval/processing times to families of drugs or patents the government believes would benefit the nation.
In the case of the the FDA lifestyle drugs like Viagra, Allegra would take a back seat to drugs for the treatment of more pressing ills (Cancer, AIDS, ALS, etc.). I think this could reduce the appeal of blockbuster drugs and the cost of pursuing less profitable segments. The latter could be achieved by reducing drug approval time and thus lengthening the time the drug is on the market protected by patent.
For the patent office the I think the implementation is less clear. I would like to see some way to reduce the burden of frivolous and defensive patents. The feelings, at least as far as I can tell are, too many frivolous patents are being awarded. As for defensive patents I think they do nothing to foster innovation in and go a long way to stifle it- very much the opposite of the nations goals for the patent office. Perhaps patent applications proven to be under current development could be expedited over applications for patents not currently under development. Determining what counts as “currently under development” could be very problematic but multi year patent application approvals are also problematic.