The Effects of Patent Extension and Take-Back Regulation on Green Pharmacy

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Manufacturing and Service Operations Management







First Page


Last Page



Problem definition: The eco-toxicity arising from unused pharmaceuticals has regulators advocating the benign design concept of “green pharmacy,” but high research and development expenses can be prohibitive. We therefore examine the impacts of two regulatory mechanisms, patent extension and take-back regulation, on inducing drug manufacturers to go green. Academic/practical relevance: One incentive suggested by the European Environmental Agency is a patent extension for a company that redesigns its already patented pharmaceutical to be more environmentally friendly. This incentive can encourage both the development of degradable drugs and the disclosure of technical information. Yet, it is unclear how effective the extension would be in inducing green pharmacy and in maximizing social welfare. Methodology: We develop a game-theoretic model in which an innovative company collects monopoly profits for a patented pharmaceutical but faces competition from a generic rival after the patent expires. A social-welfare-maximizing regulator is the Stackelberg leader. The regulator leads by offering a patent extension to the innovative company while also imposing take-back regulation on the pharmaceutical industry. Then the two-profit maximizing companies respond by setting drug prices and choosing whether to invest in green pharmacy. Results: The regulator’s optimal patent extension offer can induce green pharmacy but only if the offer exceeds a threshold length that depends on the degree of product differentiation present in the pharmaceutical industry. The regulator’s correspondingly optimal take-back regulation generally prescribes a required collection rate that decreases as its optimal patent extension offer increases, and vice versa. Managerial implications: By isolating green pharmacy as a potential target to address pharmaceutical eco-toxicity at its source, the regulatory policy that we consider, which combines the incentive inherent in earning a patent extension on the one hand with the penalty inherent in complying with take-back regulation on the other hand, serves as a useful starting point for policymakers to optimally balance economic welfare considerations with environmental stewardship considerations.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Ministério da Educação e Ciência


green pharmacy, patent extension, take-back regulation


Global Innovation and Leadership