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KEI Works to Make the World a Better Place in Many Ways (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year ago | from the intellectual-property-treaties-often-prohibit-good-things-in-amazingly-stupid-ways dept.

Medicine 39

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) director Jamie Love -- formally James Packard Love -- is the brain behind the "$1 a day" HIV drugs that have saved millions of lives in Africa and other poor parts of the world. Basically, he went around asking, "How much would it cost to make this HIV medication if the patent cost was removed?" At first, no one could answer. After a while, the answer came: Less than $1 a day. At that price, the Bush administration set up a massive program to deliver generic anti-HIV drugs to Africa. Jamie also works on copyright issues, boosts free software (he's a Linux user/evangelist and had more than a little to do with the Microsoft antitrust suit), and generally tries to make the international knowledge ecology more accessible and more useful for everyone, especially those who aren't rich. Or necessarily even prosperous. He's a smart guy (read the Wikipedia entry linked above), but more than that he's bullheaded. Jamie has worked on some of his initiatives for years, even decades. In many cases you can't say, "He hasn't succeeded," without adding "yet" on the end. (You'll understand that statement better after you watch the video, which we broke into two parts because it is far longer than our typical video interview.)

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39 comments

Patent Cost (1, Insightful)

VeryBest52 (2897689) | about a year ago | (#43456065)

People tend to forget that without the 'patent cost' we'd have no research. Drug companies need those massive profit margins in order to fund future research for present and future illnesses. Especially since the government drug research is at an all time low.

Re:Patent Cost (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43456125)

We've had lots of exciting arguments about that very question in the past, and I think the consensus is "yes, but there are still a lot of inefficiencies in that." Advertising, lobbying, kickbacks to doctors for endorsement and regulatory processes that are both bloated and insufficient can eat away at that money very quickly. Research costs themselves may be inflated due to the absence of market pressures forcing reagent and equipment suppliers to keep their prices down—ironically, due to patent-supported monopolies.

I'm not exactly sure how much of the budget goes this way, but when you stack it all up, it seems like it could potentially be quite a lot.

Good luck with a control. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456437)

We've had lots of exciting arguments about that very question in the past, and I think the consensus is "yes, but there are still a lot of inefficiencies in that." Advertising, lobbying, kickbacks to doctors for endorsement and regulatory processes that are both bloated and insufficient can eat away at that money very quickly. Research costs themselves may be inflated due to the absence of market pressures forcing reagent and equipment suppliers to keep their prices down—ironically, due to patent-supported monopolies.

I'm not exactly sure how much of the budget goes this way, but when you stack it all up, it seems like it could potentially be quite a lot.

That maybe so. Good luck with getting a control to test that hypothesis.

As a stockholder in many of those pharma companies, I'd want proof - a LOT of proof - before I forgo my investments.

Don't give me this "but people will die" stuff. Those people breed like rabbits because they are animals. Poor animals. I am the elite. And I am better than those scum.

Let them die. They will just fuck and create more parasites on the World.

I'm just a hard working Hedge fund manager on Wall Street and just a Republican. I have to work HOURS per week! HOURS!! I hardly have any time for Golf anymore!!!

Mitt Romney in '16!! Or whoever is behind Social values and abstinence and a Republican! FUCK THE POOR!

Fucking by poor people has caused all of our problems!!!

Just remember that Liberals! Fucking causes all of out problems! Praise Jebus!!

Re:Good luck with a control. (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43456873)

It wouldn't require a control or anything, just some research and a paper trail audit. The necessary information might even be in the files for one of the many court cases drug companies have gotten into over the years.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

nametaken (610866) | about a year ago | (#43456475)

Wow, you got just about all of it. Also, that might rank up among the most level-headed comments in a potentially disastrous thread, ever. (insert /. joke here, i guess)

Nicely done. Really.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43458081)

I guess it had to happen sooner or later.

Re:Patent Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456137)

How much money do you think they were making off of Africans that they no longer do now that costs are down? Was that money worth enough to let HIV mess with the lives of so many?

Re:Patent Cost (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#43456139)

Ever been to Canada? We have dozens of generic brands of popular drugs.

Re:Patent Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456333)

Because someone else paid for the research.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43456987)

I guess you paid for all your own research, eh?

Re:Patent Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43459613)

Congratulations, you also have found the fallacy of sunk costs [wikipedia.org] . Suck it, bitch.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456141)

Since when do drug companies fund drug research? They pay for testing, but generally not research.

Re:Patent Cost (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43456159)

People tend to forget that without the 'patent cost' we'd have no research. Drug companies need those massive profit margins in order to fund future research for present and future illnesses. Especially since the government drug research is at an all time low.

Remember price discrimination/market segmentation:
 
With patent costs, poor people with AIDs can't afford antiretrovirals. Result? The patentholder doesn't sell anything to them, and they die(and AIDs, given its transmission mechanism, has a funny habit of starting its work on mid/late teens and young adults, exactly the sort of human capital who might help their locations be less totally fucked in the future, if they aren't busy dying)...

Without patent costs? Patentholder still gets nothing; but health outcomes are substantially improved. Worst case, humanitarian win. Best case, future customers.

The tricky bit, of course, is that a rational, self-interested, patentholder(while they have no incentive to let people who could never pay die, since they couldn't have been customers anyway) does have an incentive to use whatever market-segmentation and price discrimination mechanisms are available to charge wealthier customers absolutely as much as they possibly can.

(It's analogous to universities that offer academic scholarships: It is mutually beneficial for the school and the poor-but-bright-and-motivated if talented students can afford to go to college; but it creates an incentive to set a 'Official Price: $50k+/yr. If you can't pay that, precisely as much as you can pay' rather than a lower equilibrium price, that would occur in absence of price discrimination mechanisms.)

Re:Patent Cost (3, Insightful)

Lendrick (314723) | about a year ago | (#43456255)

Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where capitalism is not the best solution for everyone. There's no incentive for drug companies to spend large amounts of money researching drugs that won't see a lot of use, such as new antibiotics for fighting superbugs, or ways of actually curing chronic conditions such as diabetes. On the other hand, there would be a massive amount of benefit to actually *having* these things.

Additionally, in a purely capitalist society, the people who bear the cost for drug research are people who are already sick, and thus less able to work. Paying for drug research is more like "insurance", because it protects you from illnesses in the future. Even if I'm not sick, drug research benefits me because (on average) it increases the quality and duration of my life. On the other hand, since there's no immediate benefit, people don't want to pay for that out of pocket. Massively expanding government drug research would be a very good thing in the long run, not to mention that it would create jobs right now.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#43457173)

There's no incentive for drug companies to spend large amounts of money researching drugs that won't see a lot of use,

Sure there is, they make up for it by charging a lot. Check it out [fiercephar...turing.com] .

Re:Patent Cost (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43458771)

Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where capitalism is not the best solution for everyone

"Capitalism" has nothing to do with it. The question is whether a free market can produce these goods.

Additionally, in a purely capitalist society, the people who bear the cost for drug research are people who are already sick, and thus less able to work.

There are certainly market-based solutions for this: health insurance companies would have to pay you based on your pain, suffering, and years of life lost. In that case, they have an incentive to keep you healthy for as long as possible with drugs and treatments that are as cheap as possible. Whether such solutions would emerge in a free market is an open question (it's not clear people actually really want it even though they say they do). But one thing is abundantly clear: low cost drugs and efficient health care cannot exist in the current highly regulated environment, in particular since a lot of the regulations are written by drug companies and insurance companies themselves (including the latest gigantic corporate give-away, Obamacare).

Re:Patent Cost (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year ago | (#43460181)

But one thing is abundantly clear: low cost drugs and efficient health care cannot exist in the current highly regulated environment, in particular since a lot of the regulations are written by drug companies and insurance companies themselves

The obvious solution to a non-free-market fanboy is to fully nationalise the drug and insurance companies, as well as healthcare. I don't see any merit whatsoever in companies making a profit from things that should be the right of everybody in society to enjoy equally.

Blah blah, socialism, I know.

Re:Patent Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43461671)

gee, i'd be more impressed, if Big Pharma didn't spend a fuckton MORE on marketing/etc than they do on R&D...

as far as that goes, a LOT of so-called R&D is simply bullshit marketing in disguise: will the sheeple prefer a red pill or a blue pill ? let's spend a couple million 'researching' that ultra-important factoid... will they swallow more gel caps or caplets ? let's spend millions and say its 'research'...

they are simply high-tech gatekeepers, trying desperately to hold on to their power...
fuck'em with an umbrella, then open it...

Re:Patent Cost (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#43456941)

People tend to forget that without the 'patent cost' we'd have no research.

Baloney.

You're telling me that research never happened before the day the Patent Office opened?

Especially since the government drug research is at an all time low.

Well, at least you can identify the problem. Good for you.

Re:Patent Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43457147)

That's not at all clear.

We need some amount of money flowing to research. But the cost of research for all drugs is less than the US is using in medicare/medicaid drug reimbursement already - by some factor between "a bit" ($6B for the year I checked) and "lots", depending on which numbers for drug research cost you believe in[1]. Using the "one billiion per drug" number the drug industry likes, it's lots.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmaceutical_industry#The_cost_of_innovation is a source of some estimates. I've seen a single claim of higher costs than this - at http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2012/02/10/the-truly-staggering-cost-of-inventing-new-drugs/ - which is the only one I've ever seen that would be high enough that it made for an overall higher research investment than the medicare/medicaid drug subsidies. I've not counted that for the above calculation because it has commonly been reported that the drug companies account marketing expenses under research, and the numbers in that article are for a biased subset of companies (the largest ones), and thus can't be used to represent the cost structure of the entire industry.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year ago | (#43457273)

It is possible to promote generic drugs in third world countries from a "price discrimination" perspective. That is, you strike the best balance between maximizing the benefit of drugs once they have been discovered, and incentivizing the discovery of new drugs, when you have one price for first world countries and one price for third world countries (and maybe something in between too).

That said, James Love does not seem to arguing from this point of view, but rather attacking drug patents in general. I think we need to be very critical of arguments against protecting real, non-obvious inventions, as it is too easy to place excessive weight on the immediate, measurable benefit of removing these protections, relative to the hypothetical, hard to measure cost. It's similar to how people complain when companies lay off employees, even though the principe of a free labor market means that the decision to fire a worker should be as free as the decision to hire one.

It's also not clear what sources the claims about James Love's role in the promotion of generic AIDS drugs has been. A cursory google search didn't suggest that he had been one of the major players.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | about a year ago | (#43459019)

Ask any of your "mayor players" about Jamie's role.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year ago | (#43459075)

Thanks for adding nothing to the discussion.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | about a year ago | (#43466097)

As did your cursory google search. A google search on "james love hiv aids" yields 1,750,000 results. What do you consider significant?

Re:Patent Cost (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year ago | (#43466373)

Actually you are right, as this article [salon.com] shows he did play a significant role.

Re:Patent Cost (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#43458103)

Most of the research for truly new classes of drugs is performed at public expense by NIH, etc.
Drug companies cash in on this by conducting clinical trials at inflated cost.
Drug companies also so a lot of research on tweaking existing drugs to "discover" slightly different variations which they can patent and milk for more profits. Drug companies tend to lie about and hide adverse effects of their drugs.
The only service they provide is clinical trials and this could be done a much lower public expense.

Re:Patent Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43459597)

Congratulations, you've found the fallacy of sunk costs [wikipedia.org] .

Points at KEI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456121)

Hideki!

download link? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456185)

I don't use flash, but this guy sounds interesting. Is there a download link for the video?

Re:download link? (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43456935)

If you're that stubborn you should know how to download the files from a page without having flash installed. I can.

Videos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43456299)

All I have is a huge empty space between the summary and the comments.

Looking at the page source, I see that Flash is required.

Of all the websites on the Internet, where using Windows is almost a crime, why is it okay to continue using Flash?

Shoe-string budget (1)

gordoni2 (1242124) | about a year ago | (#43456527)

Just thought I would mention KEI operates on a shoe-string budget. Anyone with some spare change available could find few better causes. Just follow the link on keionline.org [keionline.org] .

Trading SOW for KEI (1)

MrDoh! (71235) | about a year ago | (#43456765)

Meet me at 1st torch.

Re:Trading SOW for KEI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43458597)

Came for EQ joke, was not disappointed.

open to abuse (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43458741)

Exceptions "for good causes" for existing copyright and patent laws that he has been pushing for end up legitimizing the laws themselves. Laws and regulations related to medicine often end up just making drug manufacturers richer or protect them from competition further. In the end, Nader/Love-style efforts view more government regulation as the solution, but those regulations usually end up becoming tools by which corporations enrich themselves and by which bad laws become legitimate as "compromises".

Re:open to abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43459559)

... those regulations usually end up becoming tools by which corporations enrich themselves and by which bad laws become legitimate as "compromises".

Whatever we change, the change becomes a tool by which corporations enrich themselves.
Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

HIV is not the cause of 'AIDS' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43459303)

And 99.9% of the idiots on Slashdot don't even know what 'AIDS' is.

Try reading:

www.tig.org.za/The%20trouble%20with%20nevirapine.pdf

Proposed WIPO Treaty for the Visually Impaired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43459641)

From a World Blind Union (WBU) Press release dated 18 DEC 2012:

"Briefly, the new treaty would ... Still respect copyright law: it is not an attack on publishers!"

Well if it isn't an attack on publishers, why did they feel the need to say it?

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