Our ageing population
Europe is home to a relatively aged population — today, almost a quarter of us are 60 or older. This trend is reflected worldwide — according to a 2015 review by the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately one in nine people is aged 60 or older.
This phenomenon represents an increased need for medical products — a significant opportunity for growth, in terms of market and new product development, for medical product manufacturers.
European patents applications at an all-time high
‘Medical products’ represent an extraordinarily varied group — ranging from simple disposable supplies such as face masks and syringes, through to prostheses, systems for computer-assisted surgeries and telemedicine devices.
For the past 20 years, patent applications directed to the technology associated with innovative medical products has been the leading category of patent applications filed at the EPO (European Patent Office). 2017 saw 13,090 applications. This represents a 6.2% increase from 2016, and is part of the reason why European patent applications are at an all-time high.
And, with the number of people over 60 set to double by 2050, it looks like the number of patent applications will only continue to rise.
The patient experience
Perhaps one factor behind this trend is the rise in so-called ‘healthcare wearables’, thanks to improvements in technology. With chronic diseases on the rise, wearable medical technology, such as monitoring devices (e.g. ECG monitors) and infusion pumps (e.g. insulin pumps) offer advantages both to the patient and healthcare provider. For example, wearable monitoring devices record real-time data, allow the patient to carry on with their normal day-to-day activities, and result in lower healthcare costs due to a reduction in the amount of direct contact between the patient and physician.
We’re also seeing a move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach to the treatment and care of patients, towards personalised medicine. We are all unique, and personalised medicine embraces this.
In the area of medical research, where commercialisation often involves prolonged and expensive R&D efforts, patents offer a means of securing desired market exclusivity and preventing ‘copycats’.