LONDON—Spending on research and development by British pharmaceutical companies this year will exceed $850 million. That figure represents 11 percent of the national total for industrial R&D, although drugs comprise less than 2 percent of Britain's industrial output.

In evidence to the House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee, officials from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry expressed concern that the average period of patent protection for a new drug was only eight years and shortening, compared with 20 years for many other industrial products. The main reason was the increasing time—now 12 years—needed for a new drug to pass through the regulatory process from patenting to marketing.

"In future, the effective pharmaceutical patent term is projected to fall even further," the association warned. "Medicines entering the Japanese and American markets in the 1990s will have more than twice the period of protection available to pharmaceutical innovations on the...

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