It's time to act: the need to innovate has never been more pressing. Unless we increase data protection and stimulate innovation, both public and animal health and welfare will be impaired. MEPs now have an opportunity, with the review of the veterinary medicines and medicated feed proposals, to make some major improvements that will benefit us all.
Stimulating innovation is vital. Why? Because it’s essential that we keep on producing new and improved veterinary medicines; because innovation is crucial to fighting the problem of antibiotic resistance by ensuring there are always new products in the pipeline; because we want to encourage our businesses to keep on investing in, and contributing to, Europe's economy and because we want to ensure that all of Europe's farmers, pet owners and veterinarians have access to the medicines that the animals in their care need and deserve.
This means creating research and development incentives for companies that are investing in and producing veterinary medicines and it also means dramatically improving the intellectual property rights for those companies.
This will ultimately benefit all veterinary medicines, both innovative and generics. Over the past five years, 76 per cent of all registered veterinary products were generics. But without innovation and protecting intellectual property, there is ultimately no future for innovators and, by default, generics. It is as simple as that.
An increase in intellectual property protection is essential for stimulating product research. If we are to encourage research into new antibiotic development we will need protection periods of 20 years.
Additionally, there is currently no data protection for any significant new investments into improving existing products on the market; a major lost opportunity. At least five years should be considered for this.
Companies should also be given longer protection periods for their investments when researching to expand a new medicine to more species. These kinds of enhancements in data protection will allow us to better protect our pets and farm animals from (re) emerging diseases, ensuring their welfare, our health and our agri-food sector's economic viability.
We are a heavily regulated industry sector and rightly so, as animal health impacts across all levels of society, from food safety, public health and animal welfare, to allowing us to keep pets in our homes.
However, it's important also to ensure that this regulation - which directly oversees our work - encourages advances in research and development, offers more protection to the companies that are investing in creating new products and improving existing ones and, ultimately, to ensure wider access to all these products across Europe.
As an industry sector, we represent producers of both new and generic products. We invest some €500m in the development of new products each year, generate more than 50,000 jobs across Europe and the European market accounts for 31 per cent of the global market.
All this to protect the health and welfare of more than 900 million animals across Europe. Without enhanced innovation and increased data protection, these achievements will be impaired in the future, unless we act now.