"I will agree that with the rate of technological change today, the current 20 year protection is ridiculous. Technologies are typically woefully outdated by the time patents expire. IMHO patents should last significantly less time than currently (say 5 years or so),"
A farmaceutical product can well take much longer than that between the time the compound was discovered and the time it has passed all clinical trials and gets approval.from the authorities.
I work in the high-tech industry, where it can easily take 5 years between the first conception and the actual sale of the product. Only for small, incremental changes of existing technology, we sometimes get below 2 years.
The patent system is broken IMO, but not because of the 20-year term. The threshold for patentability is way too low IMO. Every big player in the industry is aggressively patenting every little idea just because the others do the same and nobody wants to be bitten in the ass by a competitor's patent or a patent troll. (I am personally in a strange position,since my employer provides various incentives to generate IP, so I end up contributing to the systemic problem.)