Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Global Access To University-Derived Medicines

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the what's-right-is-right dept.

154

Nicholas Stine writes, "Universities should make their patented biomedical innovations accessible to those in poor countries, according to a consensus statement signed by dozens of international global health leaders. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a student group active at over 30 universities in North America, drafted the Philadelphia Consensus Statement urging universities to adopt licensing policies that would facilitate access to all university-derived medicines in developing countries. Notable signatories include 28 non-governmental organizations, four Nobel laureates, Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal, Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health."

cancel ×

154 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

This is a horrible idea! (3, Insightful)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16845868)

The problem is that the Universities are not the ones manufacturing these life saving medicines and processes, it's the drug companies. Asking Universities to provide access to their discoveries would reduce the value of their discoveries on the open market (since there'd now be multiple companies licensed to sell the product, one of which may not have needed to pay for the right). In such a scenario, what incentive does the research institute have to develop the drugs and medical devices other than government grants?

The Consensus statement suggests that Universities should be "engaging with nontraditional partners, such as public-private partnerships or developing country institutions, creating new opportunities for drug development, and carving out neglected disease research exemptions in any university patents or licenses". So in other words, instead of selling their patents and discoveries to drug companies, they should be giving it away? What incentive would one of these "nontraditional partners" have to sell a $50 drug for $.05 when they could sell it on the black market for $5.00?

Drugs will not solve the long term problems in developing countries, they'll just make them worse. Many of these countries do not have the natural resources to handle their populations. This lack of resources leads to many of the diseases that our drugs are supposed to fix (plus many other problems, such as the constant wars and corruption present in Africa). Sending them cheap drugs puts more strain on existing resources, since more people are able to survive in an area that can't support them. We need to attack the root cause of their problems: corruption, overpopulation, lack of education (particularly sex education), and sanitation. Once these are solved/improved, the need for access to new miracle drugs is greatly reduced.

In short, the consortium is barking up the wrong tree. They should be trying to pursuade drug manufacturers to ship more reduced/free products to these third world countries. That would provide the benefits they are looking for, while not reducing the drug's value and risking future research investments. I'm not saying this is a great idea either, but it doesn't nearly the same negative impact as giving away the patent or production methods.

This is a horrible idea!-MicroDrugs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16845930)

"In short, the consortium is barking up the wrong tree. They should be trying to pursuade drug manufacturers to ship more reduced/free products to these third world countries. That would provide the benefits they are looking for, while not reducing the drug's value and risking future research investments. I'm not saying this is a great idea either, but it doesn't nearly the same negative impact as giving away the patent or production methods."

Or they could become part of the system and contribute financially and otherwise to the creation and distribution of needed drugs. Asking those who take all the risks for a free handout (ala world bank) isn't the best idea. Becoming part of the solution is.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

mofomojo (810520) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846100)

Money is not the sole incentive for living or working. Anybody who isn't soulless or is alive knows this. Let the patents go free and open. This way, Americans and people with financial or political interests don't have the hand on the tap as for who gets and who doesn't get healthcare in the third world.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (4, Interesting)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846260)

If we did this, who would invest the Billions necessary to research and produce these drugs? You or I can likely live very happily without worrying too much about money, but corporations cannot create wealth out of thin air. In areas like software, I agree that most patents should be "free and open". In healthcare, patents are what enables drug companies to make enough money to invest in future drugs. Without protection that patents offer drug manufacturers, it is likely that private investment would dwindle to almost nothing, leaving our government (via higher taxes) to pick up the tab (unless you are suggesting we don't need any future drugs or medical devices ... which is an entirely different discussion).

Re:This is a horrible idea! (4, Insightful)

yali (209015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846622)

Actually, there is already quite a bit of public money invested in biomedical research. The NIH budget is about 28 billion dollars [nih.gov] (one of the major reasons why the U.S. is a world research leader, by the way).

Currently, universities are encouraged to patent innovations created with federal funding and make money off those patents, thanks to the Bayh-Dole Act [economist.com] . This statement calls on universities to open up their patents when doing so could help the developing world. It does not appear to call for any changes in how public money is spent -- only in what is done with the products of that public investment.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (5, Insightful)

bhalter80 (916317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846956)

Personally I feel that universities should be free to patent at will but they should be required to disclose the percentage of the research that was funded form public grants and that percentage of any profit derrived from the patent should be given back to the grant giving agency to fund future research. This way the cycle becomes self feeding. This way there is no conflict of ownership between research that is funded both publicly and privately the university gets to continue to recieve grants and do more research and increase their fame while attracting more distinguished faculty.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847028)

I wish I had mod points, as this is a FANTASTIC idea.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (3, Insightful)

yali (209015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847730)

Although this sounds like a good idea, I don't think it would actually help. The major argument for the Bayh-Dole Act is that it gives universities an incentive to move patented discoveries into the applied realm where they may do some good; otherwise the patents languish underutilized. A major argument against it is that federally funded research ought to be in the public domain. Your plan would create the worst of both worlds: federally funded research would be protected by patents but never get turned into useful products.

Besides, most universities reinvest a large portion of their licensing money into research anyway, so the cycle is largely self-feeding already.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (2, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847744)

and that percentage of any profit derrived from the patent should be given back to the grant giving agency to fund future research,

Ok, suppose some compound was discovered which showed some promise as a lead for a cure for cancer. It was 100% government funded. Are you suggesting that 100% of any profits made from the compound be surrendered to the government? Nobody would manufacture it even if every single step of the drug R&D process was completely paid for - even if the pills cost 5 cents to make and sold for $500 dollars you couldn't make a cent from it.

The reality is that when an academic group gets a lead on a possible therapeutic advance, it is often just a proof-of-concept idea, or maybe the discovery of a new pathway or enzyme that might be a target. Sure, this is of tremendous value to discovering a cure for some disease, but much work must be done to actually come up with a drug. Even if a compound cures cancer in mice it will most likely turn out to not work in people, or if it does work it will probably only work with a limited amount of efficacy and only after a lot of tinkering. Once you actually have a decent candidate you can then go ahead and spend a few hundred million dollars to do a clinical trial to find out if it even works.

So, even if you're "just given" the cure for cancer that "freebie" ends up costing you at least a few hudred million dollars (especially if you include the number of other "freebies" that you spent good money on and which didn't pan out). Now you can go ahead and start selling your product, except that since the university that gave the concept to you also gave it to 15 other companies you're in competition right out of the gate. Now, those other 15 companies were a lot smarter - they didn't send a dime on the drug - they just waited to see what the outcome of the clinical trials were. They immediately start selling pills for 20 cents each and make a killing, while the company with hundreds of millions in sunk costs just loses its investment.

If you want to have private industry develop drugs, then you need to reward companies that innovate and spend money on R&D, as opposed to companies that just sit around to reap the rewards of work done by others.

Now, if you want to government fund the ENTIRE drug development process that might be feasible, and then you can just outsource the actual manufacture and get cheap drugs. But there are a few potential drawbacks with this system:

1. You have a single budget for all drug R&D for the nation. That budget tends to get trimmed from time to time (just look at NASA).
2. You don't have much accountability for how that drug R&D money is spent. Expect 50% of it to go to AIDS, of course. Expect about 40% to go to various bureaucrats/preferred-vendors/etc. Right now NIH doesn't have as much of this trouble because its budget is relatively small - when you make it equal to the pharma industry on top of what it does now it will become ripe for corruption.
3. I'm assuming that all this is going to end up being done by the US government, since nobody else seems to do much drug development these days. So, US taxpayers are essentially paying for the world's drug R&D. I'm sure the EU will only be happy to take advantage of the US discoveries though.
4. Scientists working on drug R&D won't get paid nearly as well as they do now, and pay will be based more on seniority than merit (typical govt practice). The best and brightest next generation of potential-scientists will find better things to do with their time.

In any case, there is a simple way to try out government drug R&D without killing the pharma industry. Just create an agency to do the work, and start doing it. When an academic lab is taking bids on a patent the govt could bid and buy the rights for the public, and then develop the drug to completion. Industry would develop some drugs which would be sold under the current system, govt would develop drugs that would be very cheap. Then after a few years we can see how the experiment works in practice - if govt works well we just keep expanding it. No need to ban big pharma - they'll just willingly sell their operations to the govt if the govt really does do a better job (govt could make use of their labs/scientists and could make offers for buyouts), or they'll just quietly go out of business due to the competition. If on the other hand govt turns out to be a boondoggle then you still have just as many drugs being turned out by big pharma as there would be otherwise, and no lives are lost as a result.

I think that in reality govt funded drug R&D won't be all that rosy, but if you want to try it there is no reason to ban the competition - it will probably be healthy.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846648)

Well... there are two ways of looking at this.

One: your government can tax you, and fund the research directly.

Two: corporations fund it, and charge the people who need it most.

Consider me a bleeding heart liberal, but I'd rather have my R&D dollars spent according to utilitarian principles, rather than by whoever's willing to pay more.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (2, Insightful)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847054)

I wish there is a way to tag this article 'the comments in this thread reduce my faith in humanity'.

For crying out loud, no one's robbing anyone. It's not like third world countries are a massive component of profits. Even if we tax to pay for this, i.e. tax to directly incentivise medical research, this is scarcely going to cut into your hamburger budgets.

Nobody chooses where they are born. Screw whether poor people 'deserve it', and start asking yourself what is the human thing to do.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

Arcane_Rhino (769339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847110)

One...

Two...

You forgot three: all the above.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847644)

UAEM's policies apply to situations where the Federal Government (meaning taxpayers like me) have *already* footed the bill for the most expensive parts of the drug development pipeline before clincial trials, which frequently occurs at universities. Clinical trials and such can cost a few hundred million dollars, but UAEM's policies only affect drug markets where brand name pharmaceutical companies won't make any of those hundreds of millions back anyway because the people in developing countries are too poor to afford the drugs anyway. This is known as a market failure, or static inefficiency. Despite these huge outlays of hundreds of millions, most brand name pharmaceutical companies spend at least twice their R&D budgets on marketing, and the pharmaceutical industry is still the most profitable in the world (at least by S&P500 sectors). UAEM's policies wouldn't cut into corporate profits if they were adopted.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (2, Insightful)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848430)

What incentives to Drug companies have now?...

as someone just said; 4 different ways to make your penis stiff.

The placebos in the Cold Symptom isle at the drug store are part of a multi-billion dollar market. Couple this with the rise in spending on advertising and lobbying -- and we have a drug industry that already knows where profits lie.

There is already technology, to reduce the length of time to create an immunization from the 12 to 15 months that the "injected egg" technique uses, to something like 3 months (I believe I read that on slashdot). Why isn't it being used? Because drug companies already sell immunizations as fast as they can -- even though they are usually so out of date a new flu variant has spawned. They wait for another manufacturer to make it cheaper or the government to subsidize.

While I'm on my rant... I remember watching UCTV about stem cell research. While the hype and fictions were being dispelled (no magic bullet), an interesting graph about Cancer outcomes was put forth. Over the past 50 years, the survival's of Cancer patients has gone up 1% (down from 2% around the 1980's). I suspect new cancers are coming forward due to some environmental conditions ... but that can't be all of it. When you factor out better tests than only show cancer earlier, you realize that we have made almost NIL headway on this disease. Wow, Billions of $ towards a modern science -- it's a good thing we don't use mercury like the quacks of yester-year. No, we use modern chemo-therapy and radiation, impoverishing desperate families, with no discernible change in outcomes. I'm beginning to think that Faith healers are just saving us money.

While there are some wonderful medical advances, I think that the machine is broken. Government money should only be subsidizing CURES, not treatments -- because there is no incentive for cures to Business. Not that I suspect a conspiracy, just that money goes to research based on market profitability. If the government ends up subsidizing that sort of research, it's only adding to profits on a balance sheet -- not promoting the public good.

Take a good look at stem cell research for example. The research is still going on... just not publicly. I suspect, that Bush and the paid lobbyists, could care less about moral issues -- they may just not want public funded research that would allow many discoveries to be in the public domain. Stop funding stem-cell research, and it becomes a profitable patent. The Health Industry must want to preserve all the easy to get patents for themselves.

I think we need to look again at what works and what doesn't. The concept of the free market achieving great things, without a strong vision in government forcing it too seems to be a wash.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848458)

In areas like software, I agree that most patents should be "free and open". In healthcare, patents are what enables drug companies to make enough money to invest in future drugs. Without protection that patents offer drug manufacturers, it is likely that private investment would dwindle to almost nothing.

I can't see the distinction you make here.

Getting innovative software to market has its costs, just like anything else.

The open source model of selling "service and support" works best when you assume a client with deep pockets and considerable technical sophistication. But the enterprise market is not small business and small business is not the home.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

Kazrath (822492) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846298)

And the drugs are going to magically appear in the hands of those who need it? How do you think anything gets done? Of course by clicking my magical ruby slippers together and chanting "There's no place like home".

People with Financial and Political interests drive this worlds production/shipping/distribution of everything. If these people had no interest in these items they would never get manufactured in the first place to be given away. The OP is right. The drugs are a bandage for a wound that will save a bunch of people who should not be saved due to over stressing the natural ecosystem of the environment they live in. These area's are way over populated and educating the survivors is going to have much longer lasting postitive effects.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846384)

In the real world most of us have to pay the rent or mortgage, feed ourselves and our children, put clothing on ourselves and our children, pay for insurance, etc, etc. It is NOT soulless to worry about how our rice bowl gets filled!!!

The reality of the human condition is that some of us have taken responsibility to under take better life practices, don't multiply out of control, and apply logic to bettering our situation. Americans (and the West in general) are NOT responsible for fixing the world. Where was the Third World when America was just starting out and the vast majority lived in worse conditions than today's Third Worlders? Americans had to make do and better their situation!

Ultimately it is the responsibility of the peoples of each country to fix themselves. Boundless food and drugs won't fix the human condition. The choices that the people of the world make will!

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846694)

What the...should we give away our Family Jewels once again?!?!?!

Look what happened after the West educated the rest of the world in computer science and computer engineering. How did they thank us? The turned around and took our jobs!

HELLO!!!

Why screw over Americans just to make a handful of people with Western-guilt happy. Get over yourselves!

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846256)

I agree. Over population is hurting Africa more than anything.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846354)

Yup, all those university professors who studied for at least 10 years in order to be in a position to do medical research will become horribly disincentived. They're all going to quit and go work a McJob instead.

Ok, now that you might be back to reality- if you're a university professor, your main motivation is not money. If it was, you would be in industry. Or more likely, gotten a law degree instead of a degree in medicine or microbiology. The people working these jobs aren't going to quit because they're suddenly not making a fortune. Hell, they weren't making a fortune anyway- the university was.

The fact is that some things are more important than money (actually, I can't think of anything less important than money, but thats for another time). There are people dieing that don't need to, because they can't afford drugs which already exist. Not because its expensive/difficult to make the drug, but because patents prevent alternative manufacturers from doing so. This is not acceptable.

Furthermore, this is university research. Over 95% of it is paid for with public money- money given to them by government grants. If the public is already paying for it, the public should have full benefits of the discovery. There is no excuse for taking my tax dollars for research, and then forcing me to pay Pheizer or Merks for the results of that research. All research at public universities or using government money should be public domain.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846544)

A University with no funds will have no money, if it has no money it won't stay open, if it's not open it's not doing any research. Research is a major income for many Universities around the world. Nobody in their right mind is going to make an investment with no return (the return being a valuble patent).
Exclaiming that all the patents should be free is a non-solution. It'll just make more problems. Get onto the drugs companies and get them to perhaps scale their pricing structure to allow poorer nations to get drugs.

Unfortunatly Universities are businesses, quit trying to treat them like charities.

This is a horrible idea!-Brown Percentages. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846664)

"Furthermore, this is university research. Over 95% of it is paid for with public money- money given to them by government grants."

Proof? Or is this another example of neither region numbers? And even if the research was paid for by public funds, the raw research will do no good without the practical work that private industry does to make certain the end result is safe and usable.

Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (4, Insightful)

xplenumx (703804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846868)

While I agree our main motivation is not money (if it was, we wouldn't have chosen science), why shouldn't we get paid money. We got paid nothing during our five years of graduate school. We got paid nothing during our five year-year post-doc. We certainly don't get rich running a lab. Why shouldn't we make money off of something we spent years of our lives working on?

What I don't understand is why it's okay for people to go into just about every other career for the money, but if someone in science decides to make a buck they're evil. I made ~16k per year while a graduate student. My friends who went into business made ~60k out of college. Five years later I made ~40k as a post-doc (on the high-end of the salary scale). My friends were up to 100k. As an Assistant Professor I make ~70k (on the high end). All of my friends from college make over 100k, and most make over 150k. My work isn't easier either. I put in a minimum of 60 hours per week, and when writing grants I often put in 80+ hours. My friends who are making over 100k per year - a 'tough week' is one where they work over 50 hours. If a scientist put in the blood, sweat, and tears to produce a patent that actually produces money (most don't), then all the more power to them. And people wonder why the younger (American) generation aren't interested in a career in science.

Re:Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (2, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847042)

We got paid nothing during our five years of graduate school. We got paid nothing during our five year-year post-doc. We certainly don't get rich running a lab. Why shouldn't we make money off of something we spent years of our lives working on?

Last time I looked (like on my monthly statement), a post-doc is a salaried position, and pretty well paid too.

In Sweden, doctoral students are paid a real salary, since, after all, they are doing research and teaching. The salary isn't all that high - they're doing it under close supervision after all - but certainly livable.

For all the kvetching, a researcher in the sciences is not poor. Please take a comparison to most normal jobs. And if you want to make lots of money instead, why not just go into industry then?

Re:Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847828)

Last time I looked (like on my monthly statement), a post-doc is a salaried position, and pretty well paid too.

Uh, maybe compared to the average college summer job, but post-docs are NOT well-paid by just about any market-based comparison. Most probably make around $30-40k annually - a fraction of what industry would pay a Ph.D. worker.

Leech! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847288)

Because your funding is coming from the Government, not from yourself!!!

I REALLY resent all of the University profs who get their money from Government grants, patent something, make a ton of money, and NONE of it goes back to the Taxpayer. You're basically getting fat off of the backs of the average citizen.

It used to be that Profs did research for the enjoyment of it, and they shared their research far more willingly. That's all changed since Academia bribed Congress into one of the biggest giveaways in the history of America. And quite frankly, innovation has taken a serious nose dive.

This is just Academic welfare.

Supply and Demand at work (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847468)

Yep, you read the subject right. It's the law of supply and demand at work.

See, people choose science careers because they *like* science. It's got a number of nonfinancial perks and rewards, such as being interesting, inciting passion, and satisfying a deep feeling of altruism.

Compare/contrast that with some business - say, importing iron. Not knocking the importance of the iron importers, as they serve a vital role in the economy, but it's not a particularly intellectually stimulating line of work.

Now, if you (like me) are of the scientific bend, are you going to actually want to get into the business of importing iron? Is it something that ignites your passion, that you were curious about as a kid?

Me neither. So to compensate, importing iron has a rather low requirement for entry, and a rather high payback on investment. (Can you read? Can you breathe? Feel like starting a business? You're probably qualified...)

And so people are willing to put up with reduced economics in order to benefit from the nonfinancial perks of science, to do science. Nothing strange or unusual - just the laws of a (relatively) free marketplace at work.

Re:Supply and Demand at work (2, Insightful)

Compuser (14899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847720)

This was true up to a certain point in time. What has happened in the last twenty or so years is that funding for science has plunged relative to the overall research needs.
What used to be:
People got a PhD or MD and went on to do research. People used to get tenure either when they were hired or shortly thereafter.
Abundant funding and early starting times made it possible for people to enjoy doing science in their most productive years.

What is there now:
5-10 year postdocs when you get paid next to nothing (yeah, a bit above grad student but nowhere near enough to buy a house), then 5-6 years of tenure-track when you cannot make a misstep or else you are out. Assistant professors cannot do high risk research because it's now a publish or perish world quite literally. Once you get tenure, those that become big shots do have spare funds to do interesting research but get little time to do it themselves (the fun part). They end up managing huge numbers of people and become managers. Everyone else struggles for money, most often so much they have no time to spend in the lab anyway.

So current generation of scientists is increasingly bitter and feels like the system is using them without letting us do what we signed up for: explore. People do feel that using the system to their own benefit is only fair. Some feel that current system has got so bad that they have no obligation to it whatsoever, hence deterioration of research ethics (the end of the world scenario if you ask me but I see where it comes from).

Current system underpays scientists greatly, either in terms of direct compensation or by underfunding our research efforts turning us into grant writing machines rather than scientists. In your terms, we have few financial perks, but the nonfinancial have also largely disappeared. In short, don't be surprised that people are less and less willing "to put up with reduced economics".

Re:Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847558)

You've made a red herring argument here. UAEM's proposals aren't asking scientists to give up revenue monies - they don't make any in the developing world anyway because no one there can afford to buy patented drugs there! They're asking universities to demand that pharmaceutical companies don't block generic competition in markets they're not even willing to sell their drugs in. If UAEM's policies were adopted, they'd create even stronger incentives for researchers working in fields where they otherwise couldn't make any money developing compounds (Neglected Diseases). They would preserve and enhance scientists' incentives to make drugs for both the developed and developing world. UAEM just wants to remove patent barriers in poor countries - not cut into pharma's or scientists' profits. RTFWebsite

Why shouldn't we ignore patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847676)

"UAEM just wants to remove patent barriers in poor countries - not cut into pharma's or scientists' profits. RTFWebsite"

Do what China does and ignore them, then let the chips fall were they may. Either we end up with a good situation or we end up with an "I told you so". Either way we win.

Re:Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847794)

Well here in small town China a senior software professional may be looking at 6-7k a year. But most people are earning less than 1K a year. In rural areas significantly less still.

So guess how long you will stay alive if you get cancer when the treatments are at western prices.

Re:Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (4, Insightful)

Greg_D (138979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847938)

Perhaps you don't deserve the big bucks from patents because you're working for a huge employer, and very few employees who work for huge employers ever get rich off of the product they've spent years of their lives working on.

We paid you, we supported your research, we should own the result. If you want to own the result, then feel free to go start up your own lab and look for the venture capital to fund your research just like every other person who wants to strike out into business for themselves. You knew when you entered academia that it was a cushy job with a nice pension (wouldn't want to forget that since they're virtually non-existent in the private sector). You're getting a better deal than virtually every private sector peon gets, so quit your whining.

Re:Why shouldn't we get paid for our work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848456)

No-one is saying the drugs should be free, or scientists shouldn't be paid. The argument is that while patent protection is appropriate for first world countries where people can afford to pay for the drugs that they need, it is not appropriate for third world countries where people can't. Free up the patents on drugs _in third world countries_; continue to profit from them in first world countries. Lose a fraction of a percent revenue.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

moatra (1019690) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846972)

Furthermore, this is university research. Over 95% of it is paid for with public money- money given to them by government grants. If the public is already paying for it, the public should have full benefits of the discovery.
Okay... even if your figure of 95% is correct, let me ask you this question: Where does the money for the government grants come from? Last time I checked, citizens of Africa weren't paying our taxes.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848342)

Citizens of Africa aren't able to afford our drugs, either. That leaves us a fundamental choice: do we allow *others* to make our inventions for free where people aren't buying them anyway (generic production) without expending our own resources, or do we keep our life-saving inventions locked away while millions of people die of treatable illnesses?

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0, Troll)

Physician (861339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847012)

"Or more likely, gotten a law degree instead of a degree in medicine or microbiology." Because we all know how little people with degrees in medicine, ie doctors, make.

No, they just won't be able to pay for the (1)

Ogemaniac (841129) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848066)

$100,000 instruments, the $50,000/year grad students and post-docs, and the tens of thousands in lab maintanence fees that are necessary in order to get the work done.

These activists are hopelessly native about the scientific process. In the medical field, R&D is roughly evenly split between public and private, and completely intertwined. EVERY drug or technique developed has at least some public and private money behind it. Saying that drugs "developed by a university" should be given away for free strikes a false dichotomy. No drug is developed by universities alone, and no drug is developed privately without at least some public research supporting it.

Activists such as these (and everyone else who complains about drug prices) just needs to get over the fact that SCIENCE IS EXPENSIVE, and that someone has to pay for it.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848136)

They're all going to quit and go work a McJob instead.

If the private funding for these researchers dries up, many of them will be in McJobs. Medical research isn't like other kinds of science research - it's profitable, so companies put money into it. I question your 95% figure - do you have a source or is that a flourish? Medical labs are expensive - even if the researcher is willing to work for free drug development is still expensive.

There is no excuse for taking my tax dollars for research, and then forcing me to pay Pheizer or Merks for the results of that research. All research at public universities or using government money should be public domain.

Universities don't usually pay for the most expensive part of drug development, which is the clinical trials. The world is full of drugs that work fine in the test tube, but without the clinical trials the patents are pretty much worthless. There's a lot more to this than just what the university researcher does.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that government money should produce public research, but if we want to make patents public the government should either pay the entire cost of the research or buy the patent from the patent-holders. But look at it this way - would you rather have 100 drugs that are expensive for a few years (20? I don't know how long) and then go generic, or 20 drugs that immediately go generic? That's really the kind of trade-off under discussion here. I suspect if you went 100% government funding after a couple of generations your generic drugs would be behind the generic drugs produced by business-government partnerships.

If the government is going to fund a drug development cycle completely, it should concentrate on things that don't make money like malaria, schistosomiasis , and vaccinations.

Better Ideas (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846536)

So what you're saying is that drug corporations should have to open up their IP, too. That their patents create artificial monopolies built on investments by the public, often from traditional development of material and techniques. That their corporate profits compete with the lives and health of the world that supports their corporations.

Funny how you pronounced that as "all that essential science should stay in monopoly hands, away from the public good".

mod parent up (1)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848536)

mod parent up...

ahhhh lameness filter, why must you plague me so

Re:This is a horrible idea! (2, Insightful)

yali (209015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847076)

Parent said "Asking Universities to provide access to their discoveries would reduce the value of their discoveries on the open market..." and then: "They should be trying to pursuade drug manufacturers to ship more reduced/free products to these third world countries."

Private industry is heavily dependent on licensing publicly funded discoveries from universities (search on the phrase "technology transfer" at any research-oriented university to see examples). Universities could include in those licenses the stipulation that drugs created from the patents be made available for free or low cost to developing countries. A carefully crafted stipulation in a licensing agreement would be unlikely to drastically reduce the market value of a discovery, since the drug companies would not have been making much money in those countries anyway.

Sure, drug companies could voluntarily do that on their own, but a for-profit company is unlikely to voluntarily do anything that could imaginably restrict their profits, even if only by a small amount. Because of their nonprofit status and public service mission, universities are more likely to get the ball rolling.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (2, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847616)

but a for-profit company is unlikely to voluntarily do anything that could imaginably restrict their profits, even if only by a small amount.

I agree that putting a clause as you suggest in the licensing agreement probably wouldn't lower the value of the agreement to a pharma company. However, I disagree that companies won't do ANYTHING voluntarily that would restrict their profits. Most major pharma outfits sell products in the 3rd world for little to no profit - and often at a loss. In part this is to avoid the creation of a 3rd-world black market that could trickle back into the 1st world. Also, in part this helps big pharma outfits to recruit top researchers who care about such things.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

dfgchgfxrjtdhgh.jjhv (951946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848252)

and its cheaper than dumping their out of date stock.

Not a horrible idea at all (1)

Sentri (910293) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847512)

Im picking on you here, but there are others whose responses are equally off-target.

Read the Consensus Statement [essentialmedicine.org] again. Closely.

Then start to realise that the purpose of this Consensus statement isnt to jack your profits or make your hard work all for nought or any of that rubbish you seem to be touting.

Imagine this:

A company has obtained the rights to produce and distribute a particular drug from a university. They are intending to distribute it to America and maybe England or Australia and maybe even parts of Europe. Its a new drug that costs maybe 200 bucks a course of pills. The pharmacy(drug store) might get 50 bucks out of that 200, the pharmaceutical company gets 150, of which alot has been spent on manufacturing and transport. They also pay royalites to the University. Leaving them with enough money to profit, finance some r&d of their own and so on.

They dont send this drug to the developing countries, its too expensive for the comapny to even consider, especially when you take into account the transport costs, and the low chance of anyone even being able to afford the damn things.

So there is an unequitable distribution of the drugs, the company has no intentions of distributing to the poorer countries, and the countries cant afford it.

The consensus doesnt want to mess with the profit of the areas above, it is suggesting that local pharmaceutical companies in poor countries be licensed to create the drug on a no-royalty basis, for distribution only within the country considered to be 'poor'

Its not the horrible profit eater you describe.

You also mention the black market, and you are correct in stating that the drug company in the developing country might try and sell the drug for cheap, you will get more spam offering 'cheap folagron' or whatever, but no actual harm is being done to anyone's profits. Its nigh on impossible to ship drugs into coutnries without some form of question being asked, and 5 bucks a pop isnt exactly profit central for drug smugglers, they are better off risking their lives (death sentence for drug smuggling in many 3rd world countries) for a more profitable and less legal drug.

"Sending them cheap drugs puts more strain on existing resources ... new miracle drugs is greatly reduced."

See now this is a legitimate point. They need the education more than they need the drugs, but sadly they arent really ready for the education we can give them. Many attempts to educate 3rd world communities end up causing the educated to leave the communities, leaving behind the elders stuck in the old ways. Its sad, and its not working well, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt be trying.

Ultimately we need a better plan for 3rd world health, this is certainly an improvement over the existing situation, and does need to be considered.

I have skimmed over the NEGLECTED DISEASES and MEASURE RESEARCH SUCCESS ACCORDING TO IMPACT ON HUMAN WELFARE sections of the consensus, as have pretty much all the other posts when I started writing this. They are important because they represent a drive to reward research into diseases that affect third world countires more than the US, meaning that research into diseases caused by unpotable water, badly cooked food or exposure can be undertaken. It also calls for a re-alignment of the metrics of Research Success, stating that net benefit to the human race should be our main metric, not patents and royalties. Both of these are noble goals that will aid thrid world countries as much if not more than cheap drugs.

Re:Not a horrible idea at all (1)

Dravik (699631) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848530)

Now how is it everyone was so upset that Sony sued to shut down the grey market a week or so ago then somehow forget that the exact same grey market dynamic will effect drugs. The no royalty licenses to third world countries will be sold primarily in 1st world countries just under the cost to the legitimate manufacturers but with lower quality control.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

sjs132 (631745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847610)

" In such a scenario, what incentive does the research institute have to develop the drugs and medical devices other than government grants? " Pretty much summs it up... How many Drugs are produced by communist countries where research is dependent on goverment rubles? Moving on, next topic...

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848204)

Experience tells us that pursuading drug manufacturers to ship free products to developing countries doesn't work and isn't sustainable. For example, Pfizer's 2001 donations of fluconazole (a drug used to treat HIV complications) to South Africa were a miserable failure: pharmaceutical companies don't know to distribute drugs in places where conventional supply chains methods don't work, they usually don't know where the people who need the drugs actually are, and they usually impose burdensome reporting requirements that drain already-critical healthcare worker human resources that need to be allocated to treating people.

Gilead's Global Access Program (for a drug originating from Emory University labs) has also been a miserable failure for similar reasons, and has only been registered with governments to be allowed to even enter the country in 12 of the 97 countries it promised Emory. This is why NGOs like Doctors Without Borders, who work with patients and the drug supply chain on the ground in these developing countries, are the ones most vocally calling for generic production of drugs in the poorest countries.

UAEM's policies wouldn't reduce drugs' value because there are extremely strict trade rules for importing and exporting drugs with harsh penalties. And they don't require people to give away patents or production methods entirely - some of them just ask for generic production to be allowed in countries where the patent-holding company usually isn't even selling the drug (or if it is, it's not making a profit anyway because no one can afford it at prices above marginal production costs).

Re:This is a horrible idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848294)

Rather than giving the patents away for free, universities ought to ensure that the life-saving products of their state-funded dollars are made available in countries that otherwise could not afford them in an open market. When University X discovers drug Y, they negotiate a licensing agreement with Drug Company Z. Universities have the ability to negotiate the terms of this licensing, and they should allow the drug to be sold in an open market in countries that can afford it, but demand that it be made available at production costs in countries that cannot.

The higher-ups will only listen if there is a large voice demanding this humanitarian access to essential medicines. I've spoken with the head of research development and the president of the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota, and they have said they'll only consider a change in policy after a huge push from the student body.

Don't abandon this issue on Slashdot. Users here are the world's current and future PhDs, with the power to influence university policy as long as they have the conviction, the diplomacy and the guts.

Make some noise and let the boss know you want your discoveries made available to the poorest of the poor.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848442)

What incentive would one of these "nontraditional partners" have to sell a $50 drug for $.05 when they could sell it on the black market for $5.00?


You're arguing against the petition and your own hypothetical grants a 90% discount in the price of drugs? That's the worst-case scenario! Sounds pretty sweet to me. And since you think so highly of market forces (at least as far as driving future research) why wouldn't there be equally as much competition driving the price of this hypothetical drug down to its cost to produce?

So the bogeyman is actually "overpopulation", eh? Sounds like you're saying what poor developing countries need to do is cull the herds. I am sure you don't think of yourself as a racist elitist, but the implication of your statement is as racist and elitist as you can get. You're blaming these people for being sick; for needing help. Shame on you.

Yes these countries have issues. But it's hard to establish law and order when life expectancy drops below 33 years [bbc.co.uk] . It's hard to plant crops when you're dying of malaria. It's difficult to organize a protest against corrupt officials when every other person is busy tending to their dying wife/sibling/child.

The effort required to achieve prosperity is intense and the foundation on which these improvements are made is so very slender. Having a plague that is actively culling what should be the next generation makes it impossible to build for the future. And I think that's what this proposal is about. No, it wont solve every crises in the developing world, but cheaper medications would make a difference.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

ifngamma (1027402) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848460)

the problem isn't about who is making the drugs, but who is profiting from them. Sure, incentivizing research is tough and everyone wants a return on their investment but the consortium's proposal lets pharma continue to dominate the market in developed countries, it just tries to find a way to lower prices in poorer ones. Since poorer ones can't afford the meds anyway, i doubt that will cause a blip to the bottom line of Phizer or Roche. As long as medicare part D still pumps loads of cash to expensive prescription drugs, pharma has plenty of incentive to produce new meds.

Seriously, why does everyone freak out with the idea that pharma might make a tiny bit less money than currently? its not like the consortium is asking pharma to be nationalized!

btw, drug donations from pharma to developing countries don't work - just ask doctors without borders (http://www.accessmed-msf.org/upload/ReportsandPub lications/2092002185426/4-3.pdf) - they're expensive and only sustainable at the whim of pharma and their investment-return-demanding shareholders. Time and time again, experience shows that generic drugs are the best and cheapest way to get people in developing countries live saving meds - and Senior Clinton and his Foundation seem to agree considering the deals they've been making with Indian generic companies.

oh, and some of the 'non traditional partners' are non-profits like OneWorld Health, that, since they aren't looking to satisfy shareholders investment appetites, actually don't have an incentive to jack up the prices of meds to boost their advertising budget. Just cause the private sector *can* do something, doesn't mean it always does it better.

you're right on one thing, drugs won't solve the problems in developing countries. but in places like botswana where around 30% of the population has HIV, maintaining structures that keep med prices high is essentially consigning a third of Botswanans to death in short order. Then the rest of the world will have more to worry about than the relatively simple question of how to promote access to cheaper meds in developing countries.

Re:This is a horrible idea! (1)

Dravik (699631) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848602)

What effect on the rest of the world does the death of 30% of Botswana have?

One thing should be accessible to those in poor co (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16845888)

untries: MY NUTS

And in other news... (2, Insightful)

PriyanPhoenix (900509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16845902)

University funding plummets as drug companies refuse to allow others to reduce their profits by giving away the fruits of research for which they paid. Nice sentiment. Terrible idea.

Re:And in other news... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846064)

Followed by drug development plummeting because the universities quit doing the research studies the drug companies used.

Followed by everyone being wiped out by the flu, but at least they had 5 choices of drugs for making their dick hard until the very end.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846164)

Please read parent and consider moderating it positively.

Actually, according to the disclaimer, (1)

xC0000005 (715810) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846400)

each of those has only has a 15% chance of making your dick hard (unless you are a woman, in which case it always works). Side effects include nausea, dry mouth, heaves, ebola, and a high probability of catching the flu.

Re:And in other news... (1)

schwaang (667808) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847120)

University funding plummets as drug companies refuse to allow others to reduce their profits by giving away the fruits of research for which they paid.

Except that their profits won't be reduced under the Equitable Access License.

It doesn't force drug manufacturers to make or sell anything, or set any prices.
It doesn't erode the drug co.'s markets (which are only the rich countries).
It just permits the production of generic drug versions for sale only in low/middle income countries.

Fat Chance (2, Insightful)

swpod (963634) | more than 7 years ago | (#16845914)

Some of these universities have made hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty payments from the pharma companies. You think they are going to give up that gravy train so that dark people won't suffer and die? Universities are run by classic Limousine Liberals -- all for social programs unless it hits *their* cash flow.

Re:Fat Chance (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846076)

"Dark people"? I would hope that you could come up with a better discriminator than the color of their skin! I shall make sure that I tell my 'dark' friends in seattle that they're going to suffer and die due to the universities greed.

Re:Fat Chance (1)

kbox (980541) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846410)

The fact is most third world countries, Countries which the article is suggesting we help, Are populated by "dark people"... Regardless of how politically correct you want to appear on the internet.

Well done on having black friends though, And well done of felling as though you need to tell us about it.

Re:Fat Chance (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846770)

Methinks you missed my sarcasm noted to telling my 'dark' friends. But let me spell this out for you, you seem to need further elaboration. The point being made was that not all 'dark people' will be affected by the lack of free medication as just a few, a small few (this is more sarcasm btw), don't live in third world countries. The use of 'dark people' was an poorly used discriminator, both from the politically correct and global perspective. As you point out yourself through use, 'third world population' would probably have been a more appropriate choice. Are those people from third world Asian countries, such as Nepal, to be considered 'dark'? I mean I suppose the Nepalese would be considered 'dark' if they stood next to a Caucasian, but if they stood next to my 'dark' British ass they would look pretty pale.

How about just 'Bug Eaters' for short? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848164)

That's un-PC enough for the GP and more descriptive then 'third world population' which includes all the third world rich (who get just dandy health care).

Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (-1, Troll)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16845982)

These guys are always attaching their names to feel-good petitions and liberal/left wing causes. They've devalued themselves by doing so, nobody takes them seriously anymore. Everybody sees them for who they really are.

Re:Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846322)

These guys are always attaching their names to feel-good petitions and liberal/left wing causes. They've devalued themselves by doing so, nobody takes them seriously anymore. Everybody sees them for who they really are.


OK, I'll bite on your flamebait.

Yes liberal and left wing causes are the root of all evil and by definition absurd and credibility destroying. Never mind that capitalism is guaranteed to kill us all. I'm pretty sure there is not a single socialist idea that threatens the future of humanity as a species. I cannot say the same for capitalism and the mindless fools who believe in it.

Now on the topic at hand, university medicines for developing nations is pretty much a waste of time. If its not penicillin, aspirin or quinine then don't bother. The majority of medicine is a sham, and one designed for profit at that.

What the developing world needs is for developed nations to stop living irresponsibly, and to stop aspiring to "developed" status themselves. Under capitalism we cannot all be rich, by definition, the vast majority must be destitute and starving. For capitalism to prolong its destruction of humanity for as long as possible then developing nations must remain undeveloped. The entire world cannot work at exorbitant unionized wages. (Note what you consider left wing / liberal is just selfish enablers of the capitalist world destroying machine.)

Now fuck off and die asshole.

Re:Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846446)

And before you make the predictable response about the "National Socialism" in Germany in the forties, the Nazis thought what they were doing was right, the key difference about American capitalists of the 21st century is that they know what they are doing is wrong, they just don't care.

Re:Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (1)

rossz (67331) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846338)

It's the "expert syndrome". Too many highly intelligent people think that because they are an expert in one field, they are automatically qualified in another field. Thus you have physicists signing petitions for medical or global warming causes, thinking their expertise as a physicist someone carries into completely unrelated fields.

I have no problem with Nobel laureates signing as a private person, but I agree, they cheapen themselves when they use their award to gain status.

Re:Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848300)

You should read about people who signed it like John Sulston before making baseless assumptions like that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sulston [wikipedia.org]

Adult film producers.. a dime a dozen (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846386)

> These guys are always attaching their names to feel-good petitions and liberal/left wing causes.

So says 'Adult film producer ' ?!?

Perhaps the 'liberal / left wing' attracts those with higher IQs and knee jerk tough guy high school libertarian responses come from fat white guys? If I want medicine, I'll take the Nobel guys. I make my own porn, thanks anyway.

Re:Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (1)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846408)

Even more, they get to claim a moral high ground, knowing it won't cost *them* anything. It's a highbrow way of saying "Hell yeah, I'm for helping the poor! You go first, won't you, buddy? I'm a little light this week."

BTW, ever notice that the countries that are the poorest are frequently also the least free? (in terms of personal and economic freedom)

And before someone pipes up saying "The United Nations should administer the programme" please have a read about the spectacular success of the UN Oil-For-Food Programme, first.

Re:Nobel laureates.. a dime a dozen (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847736)

"And before someone pipes up saying "The United Nations should administer the programme" please have a read about the spectacular success of the UN Oil-For-Food Programme, first."

That went perfectly mate, I mean look how much oil they got out!

Step by step process for global free medicines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16845998)


1) Governments around the world uses their tax dollars to hire the scientists currently working at private companies attracting them with offers of better working conditions, pay, moral goodness and freedom from harassment

That is the only step, really. Of course, governments around the world were always known as notoriously good at getting hold of things already produced, assuming that future production will sort itself out.

No real surprise here. Next, Plasma TV's for all. (1)

xC0000005 (715810) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846040)

People who don't have something think people who do should give it to them. We see this with plasma TVs quite a bit, as well as cars, wallets and emminent domain.

If the medicine is developed with government grants then yes, it ought to be available to all citizens of the country that developed it. Whether or not it's available to other countries is a matter for larger debate, where I tend to think the answer is yes - asking some 3rd world country to solve its health problems by inventing the drugs it needs probably doesn't work. If a university researches a drug with corporate money, well, they got in bed with a partner for research money and shouldn't be surprised if the partner wants their piece of the pie. Perhaps what they should call for is for Universities to not accept funding from corporations to do research for them.

unfair (2, Insightful)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846266)

Only about half of all medical research is privately funded, yet most new medicines end up being patented and owned by private companies. Shouldn't the people (US! the public!) who pay for the research be the ones who decide how it is used? In a democratic society, the people would actually own what they pay for and would choose to use it for the good of the worlds population. Too bad we live in a corporate oligarchy. We subsidize (or socialize if that's your bad word) the costs and risks of research, but we privatize the benefits so that only a few rich shareholders can profit while millions die of preventable diseases. We need a revolution.

Re:unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16846448)

Do you have a source for this number? I am (mildly) inclined to think that lots of the work involved in getting a drug approved e.g. clinical trials is something universities don't have the resources to do and currently don't (at least in part because no private or government-run university wants the liability of ending up with a dead patient).

Re:unfair (3, Informative)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846776)

The NIH alone contributed 28% of medical research funds in 2005 [medpagetoday.com] . There are other sources of state and federal funds. My statistical source for the roughly half number is from an article in Wired magazine (I couldn't find it online; do a lexus nexus search if your school or workplace will pay for it ;-)). It stated that government money previously provided for the majority of the funding for medical research, and government funding for health science has increased, but industry funding has increased faster, so now private funds account for just over half. Not for profit private foundations also provide some funding (I've seen 10% attributed to them). Whatever the exact numbers, it should be clear that the fruits of this research is excessively ending up in for profit hands.

Re: unfair (0, Flamebait)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847712)

> Only about half of all medical research is privately funded, yet most new medicines end up being patented and owned by private companies. Shouldn't the people (US! the public!) who pay for the research be the ones who decide how it is used? In a democratic society, the people would actually own what they pay for and would choose to use it for the good of the worlds population. Too bad we live in a corporate oligarchy. We subsidize (or socialize if that's your bad word) the costs and risks of research, but we privatize the benefits so that only a few rich shareholders can profit while millions die of preventable diseases.

The US government is as much the lapdog of the pharmaceuticals as it is of the energy companies.

> We need a revolution.

No, we just need a citizenry that will cast civic-minded votes rather than voting for whatever politician promises them the best deal.

Re:unfair (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847820)

In a democratic society, the people would actually own what they pay for and would choose to use it for the good of the worlds population.

Then don't sell it! Just keep it in the NIH and develop it all the way to market. But don't sell a license to a company and then turn around and tell them that now that they've spent $500M developing it that you think their product should be priced just above marginal cost.

I don't understand why everybody calls for major overhauls of drug patents, etc. If govt funding is the key then just start up govt labs in competition with industry, and see which model works best in real life. If govt labs churn out dozens of drugs for 1/10th the price, then keep expanding the program. If not then scrap it. In the meantime, just let the drug industry maintain the status quo - they'll die out quickly enough if the govt saves the day, and if the govt falls flat on its face at least we'll still have expensive new drugs rather than no new drugs.

While public funds pay for a lot of medical research, most of the practical development costs are borne by private industry. Most of the leads paid for by taxpayers don't work out, and yet a lot of money gets spent finding that out. When drugs do work out they bear the cost of the ones that didn't. Even if you hand a drug company a compound that is likely to work, it still costs hundreds of millions of dollars to do the clinical trials necessary to sell it legally.

I'm not convinced that a publicly-funded model will work. But go ahead and try it - you could find worse ways to spend a few billion dollars than trying to save lives. And if it works then the program can be expanded to provide cheap drugs for everyone.

Just look at the post office - we don't ban UPS and Fedex just because they make people not want to use express mail - instead we encourage the competition and end up with a federal agency that is half-decently run. If the government solution were the best one nobody would buy from anybody else, but on the other hand there is still cheap mail service for people who don't rate a corporate account with Fedex, and everybody gets a mailbox close to home if not at home.

Universities don't make drugs (2, Informative)

Couch Commander (749189) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846314)

Last time I checked, Universities don't make drugs. Doing the research on which a drug is based is the cheap/easy part. Taking a lead compound through development, animal testing, Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 Clinical Trials is the expensive/hard part. Univerities don't do the hard part. So sure, let them share all the drugs they've developed.

Re:Universities don't make drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847788)

Actually, preclinical phases are more expensive *on the whole* because the risk of (for example) side effects, toxicities, delivery problems, carcinogenicity, etc. is much greater because at that point so much less is known. It's true that the research behind any given drug costs less than the clinical trials for it, but that doesn't factor in all of the leads that turned up cold and all of the most basic bench science (think Watson and Crick and remember that someone paid for that a long long time ago) that *enabled* people to get to a drug candidate, regardless of where clinical trial funding came from. Clinical trial funding is frequently subsidized by the US Federal Government in the form of tax write-offs, R&D incentives, and other forms of corporate welfare. We're always standing on the shoulders of giants, and it's easy to cut that out of economic analyses, but realistically speaking, bench science, basic research, and compound library screening costs much, much more than clinical trials *on the whole*. And more often than not, governments subsidize the cost (and economic risks) of all of that "enabling" research.

This reminds me... (3, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846346)

This reminds me of my petition that everybody capable of contributing to the development of lifesaving drugs drop whatever their current career is--be it software developer, accountant, homemaker, whatever--and dedicate the rest of their lives to developing lifesaving medicines.

Because, hey, if we can, then it's immoral not to.

Re:This reminds me... (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847396)

This reminds me of my petition that everybody capable of contributing to the development of lifesaving drugs drop whatever their current career is--be it software developer, accountant, homemaker, whatever--and dedicate the rest of their lives to developing lifesaving medicines. Because, hey, if we can, then it's immoral not to.

Fuck off with the legislating morality already. It doesn't work with the religious nuts, and it doesn't work with this. It's my life and you're not making me work in the mind numbing drudgery of drug discovery. This isn't the Soviet Union.

Re:This reminds me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848068)

In Soviet Russia, drugs discover you

Re:This reminds me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16847510)

No one's asking for anyone to drop their careers to develop lifesaving drugs--just asking for fairly small changes in public policy that will have a huge impact on the lives of poor people years down the road. Universities have very little to lose in terms of revenues from poor countries, and patent-based pharmaceutical companies do too (no one can afford their drugs in developing countries, anyway! that's why they usually don't even sell them there!). So you've made a classic red herring argument.

Ishmael (1)

SuicidalLabRat (804152) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846436)

The depth and dynamic of the problem(s) to which this statement is meant to speak, is far greater than the relatively naive, albeit well meaning, process proposed. In addition to heeding the incentive, commodity abuse/manipulation, economies of scope/scale issues and failed resolve targeting that have already been brought to light by my fellow slashers, I would recommend the drafting body behind this project read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael.
Scary but enlightening mirrors are yummy...

SLR-

I guess the poor "deserve" everything now (3, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846450)

So somehow as a taxpayer in the U.S.A. who funded that research I should still be charged outrageous skyrocketing prices if I need it, but somehow people in foregin countries somehow deserve it more than I do and should have it given to them? I might well accept an argument that public funded medical research should have certain restrictions put on it's prices, but those restrictions should start with saying that the taxpayers who funded it should be charged no more than others who did not fund it (including Canadians and Europeans), not allow the patent holders to charge even more locally to offset giving the stuff away to "the poor". Lets not even get into discussions of how such giveaways usually enrich a corrupt government and seldom get to the targeted people, it's not even relivant in this case.

As A Taxpayer... (2, Insightful)

haute_sauce (745863) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846658)

...And by definition a funder of university drug research in SOME cases, I have a significant problem with this idea (that drug I pay to have created are forced to be sold cheaper somewhere else). And I am sure that should such silliness be attempted, a regulation preventing goverment funding will not be used in such a manner. and then you can kiss off university research !

I do know that profits on patents held by universities alows them to retain the best talent, and therefore continue innovative and ground-breaking work. Everyone benefits, believe it or not.

I am all for the common good, but not when 'student groups' decide that socialism is good for me and mine ! And I am sure that once thier folks or the taxpayers quit paying thier tuition, they will feel the same way. Remember the saying 'A liberal is a Conservative who has yet to be mugged'...

Re:As A Taxpayer... (2, Informative)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847128)

I have a significant problem with this idea (that drug I pay to have created are forced to be sold cheaper somewhere else).

But apparently you don't mind that the drugs you pay to have created are patented by someone else, huh? They take our money, use it to do research, and then keep the results for themselves. You and I and the rest of the taxpayers are getting screwed.

I do know that profits on patents held by universities alows them to retain the best talent, and therefore continue innovative and ground-breaking work. Everyone benefits, believe it or not.

Except, of course, for the people who can't afford some patented treatment because the lack of competition is keeping the price out of their reach. But who cares about them, right?

Remember the saying 'A liberal is a Conservative who has yet to be mugged'...

Don't forget the corollary, "A conservative is a liberal who has yet to fall on hard times."

Re:As A Taxpayer... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847902)

Except, of course, for the people who can't afford some patented treatment because the lack of competition is keeping the price out of their reach. But who cares about them, right?

Uh, how many drugs are on the market without ANY competition? Most drugs compete with cheap medications - but people aren't satisfied with the cheap meds because the more expensive ones work better. But, would the more expensive meds exist if it weren't for the drug industry that developed them?

They take our money, use it to do research, and then keep the results for themselves. You and I and the rest of the taxpayers are getting screwed.

Uh, most drug company R&D isn't government subsidized. University R&D is a different story, and I'd tend to agree with your point there. However, the drug companies pay in gold for the ideas they buy, and pay in gold to develop them.

In any case, as I've suggested elsewhere there is a simple solution. Just have the NIH start a drug development program in competition with industry, and see how it works. No need to have price fixing, or abolish patents. If the NIH sees some compound that might cure cancer they can dump a few hundred million into clinical trials and see how it pans out. If it works the resulting drug would be released into the public domain and it would be cheaply available like aspirin is. If it doesn't work taxpayers can just foot the bill (well, they're doing that either way). The Europeans can continue to let the US taxpayers foot the R&D costs alone like they're doing currently.

If govt-funded R&D works then there will be lots of cheap drugs, and taxpayers won't mind the huge cost of the R&D. Those who hate the pharma industry can clap as their stocks fall until they're bought by the NIH. If it doesn't work taxpayers will just continue to buy $5 pills the way they are already doing, and nobody is the worse off except for some wasted tax money. And in the end we'll have an actual answer to the question of whether govt-funded drug R&D actually works - rather than endless conjecture.

No reason the public and private systems can't co-exist, and the private competition would probably only make the public system more likely to succeed...

Re:As A Taxpayer... (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848106)

Uh, how many drugs are on the market without ANY competition?

There is no competition for the production of a patented drug; that's the whole purpose of patents.

Most drugs compete with cheap medications - but people aren't satisfied with the cheap meds because the more expensive ones work better.

Indeed. So, as I was saying, the GP's assertion that "Everyone benefits, believe it or not" is wrong, because the people who can't afford the more effective treatments don't benefit; in fact, when the high prices enabled by patents are the reason they can't afford them, just the opposite happens.

But, would the more expensive meds exist if it weren't for the drug industry that developed them?

When their development was funded by tax money? Probably, yes. The money is there for someone to do the research; it doesn't really matter who.

Uh, most drug company R&D isn't government subsidized. University R&D is a different story, and I'd tend to agree with your point there.

Good thing this story is specifically about university R&D, then.

In any case, as I've suggested elsewhere there is a simple solution. Just have the NIH start a drug development program in competition with industry, and see how it works. No need to have price fixing, or abolish patents.

What's being suggested here is neither price fixing nor the abolishment of patents. The suggestion, as laid out in the article summary, is for "universities to adopt licensing policies that would facilitate access to all university-derived medicines in developing countries".

Re:As A Taxpayer... (1)

stapedium (228055) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848532)

>> Uh, how many drugs are on the market without ANY competition?
>There is no competition for the production of a patented drug; that's the whole purpose of patents.

The parent's point is that the competition for the patented drug are other drugs in its class and other drugs used to treat the same diseases/symptoms. Think Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, Zantac, Petpo

>> Most drugs compete with cheap medications - but people aren't satisfied with the cheap meds because the more expensive ones work better.
>Indeed. So, as I was saying, the GP's assertion that "Everyone benefits, believe it or not" is wrong, because the people who can't afford the more effective treatments don't benefit; in fact, when the high prices enabled by patents are the reason they can't afford them, just the opposite happens.

And in fifteen years, the expensive meds are the cheap ones. In five years, they have competition from drugs in the same class and are moderately priced.

>>But, would the more expensive meds exist if it weren't for the drug industry that developed them?
>When their development was funded by tax money? Probably, yes. The money is there for someone to do the research; it doesn't really matter who.

Except that tax dollars did not fund the Phase I, II and III trials required by the FDA before a druge get approved. These are some of the highest costs in developing a drug (aside from marketing...but don't get me started on that).

>>Uh, most drug company R&D isn't government subsidized. University R&D is a different story, and I'd tend to agree with your point there.
>Good thing this story is specifically about university R&D, then.
Universities aren't the only ones who get patents based on gvt. money. Take a look at small business and student loans/grants. These are both heavily subsidized, but we don't expect anyone who uses these programs to give away anything they produce as a result of these funds.

>>In any case, as I've suggested elsewhere there is a simple solution. Just have the NIH start a drug development program in competition with industry, and see how it works. No need to have price fixing, or abolish patents.
>What's being suggested here is neither price fixing nor the abolishment of patents. The suggestion, as laid out in the article summary, is for "universities to adopt licensing policies that would facilitate access to all university-derived medicines in developing countries".
There already is access. The problem is that your tax dollars would then be subsidizing generic pharmaceutical companies in these developing countries and the grey market used to sell them back to developed counries. Since they have lost licensing fees, Universities would need to supplement their incocme in some other way (ie increase tuition). This decreases access to the education needed to develop future drugs and ultimately raises their price/delays their development.

There is no free lunch.

Re:As A Taxpayer... (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848692)

The parent's point is that the competition for the patented drug are other drugs in its class and other drugs used to treat the same diseases/symptoms. Think Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, Zantac, Petpo

Right. That's an irrelevant point, though. When I mentioned "people who can't afford some patented treatment because the lack of competition", the competition that would enable them to afford a certain drug is competition to produce that drug, not a different, less effective one.

And in fifteen years, the expensive meds are the cheap ones.

Then the people fifteen years in the future will benefit; yay for them. Unfortunately, there are people suffering today who are hurt, not helped, by these policies.

Universities aren't the only ones who get patents based on gvt. money. Take a look at small business and student loans/grants. These are both heavily subsidized, but we don't expect anyone who uses these programs to give away anything they produce as a result of these funds.

Well, perhaps we should. I don't want businesses patenting the things that my taxes paid them to develop either. If they're going to lock it away, they can pay for it themselves.

There already is access. The problem is that your tax dollars would then be subsidizing generic pharmaceutical companies in these developing countries and the grey market used to sell them back to developed counries.
...which benefits people here by giving them access to cheaper imported drugs. Sounds good so far.

Since they have lost licensing fees, Universities would need to supplement their incocme in some other way (ie increase tuition).

That sounds fair. Right now, tuition at our universities is being subsidized by everyone in the world who uses a drug that's patented by one of those universities. If that goes away and tuition rises, then we'll be paying a bit more, but it's not as if those other countries owe us tuition subsidies.

In other words (1, Flamebait)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846666)

People who want free stuff say: "give stuff away for free"

If we're giving away something... (0, Flamebait)

Darlantan (130471) | more than 7 years ago | (#16846860)

...then I say we give away contraceptives. Lots of them. For free.

People are starving in Africa, disease is a big problem, and overpopulation is a global issue. Give them lots of contraceptives and a little sex ed, and watch as things start getting cleared up.

The other option is to just leave them alone and let half of Africa continue blasting away at itself with AK-47's, but I don't see that working all that well either. Better to not have kids than to just let them shoot one another.

No. Better to have a whole squad of kids. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848240)

Teach them hit and run tactics and marksmanship.

Then profit off your private army.

It worked for almost every current national leader in Africa.

Seriously though kids die of bad cases of the shits in Africa. Lacking a treatment costing pennies.

What is the point of this discussion? Would it be nice if everything was peachy and everybody was kind to everybody else?

This is /. rather then asking underfunded universities to give up revenue we should be asking hot chicks to give up pussy to geeks. The odds are better.

So basically... (3, Interesting)

PhysicsPhil (880677) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847606)

...everybody signed the declaration except the actual people doing and paying for the drug research.

In other news, Slashdot readers signed a petition for free computers while drivers signed another for free gas.

Re:So basically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16848402)

Almost 30 extremely prominent scientists and physicians, including 4 Nobel Laureates and probably the most famous HIV scientist on the planet, suggest that people doing the research are well-represented. See http://www.essentialmedicine.org/cs/?page_id=4#Sci ence [essentialmedicine.org] for details. Taxpayers (the ones paying for so much of university research) are invited to sign the Philadelphia Consensus Statement.

Stagnation (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 7 years ago | (#16847608)

Excellent. I will now have even LESS motivation to innovate at the University I work at.

_the_ pivotal test of Intellectual Property (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848168)

The claim goes, for every 1 drug that a company brings to market after years of painful research failures, there are a bunch that didn't pan out, and the one that did took years of people working tirelessly to create.

If the drug companies weren't granted monopoly distribution rights via protectionist government intervention, this basic drug research would not be possible because the basic investment would never pay back - generics would undersell the "inventor" of the drug everytime.

How sure are people of this?

Is intellectual property law really acceptible? Does it really get "goodness" into the hands of the public sooner?

Would basic drug research and development continue without intellectual property protection?

What things can and cannot be intellectual property, and why? Isn't it possible to patent a process that has business value? Suppose that someone had patented the process for doing a heart transplant and refused to allow other hospitals to do heart transplants?

The current model of IP protection is _one_ model. I'd argue that it has been badly twisted and perverted by content organizations like the MPAA/RIAA, and by brand holders like Disney, and by many others.

There may be other models that do NOT rely upon the government-sponsored artificial construct called "intellectual property", yet still allow people that work hard to be fairly compensated and still allow good contributions to be made to society.

The road that the US (and by extension, the world) is headed down is not sustainable. Soon it will be illegal to create new inventions or content without infringing on something else pre-existing, and more and more, intellectual property owners will attempt to maximally monetize their intellectual property in a direction orthogonal to or even opposite of the path of ethics and societal responsibility. And because the whole scheme is artificially created by government, no market correction can exist or happen.

I currently enjoy my livelihood because of "today's model" but I am pretty frustrted with some of the things my employer is doing because of "today's model". It's got me thinking about other ones.

Any discussion about intellectual property starts and ends with the problem of drugs - society measurably suffers because of IP protection for drug designs. The only question is - does society measurably suffer without IP protection for drug designs? The people might be willing to try "the grand experiment". But the companies that bought our legal system won't hear of it.

Ummmmm... (1)

TrebleJunkie (208060) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848206)

... excuse me, but is this a bad time to recommend Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged?

Astroturfing On Slashdot OR Have a Heart People (1)

sweatyboatman (457800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16848288)

Is it just me or does it seem like this article has brought out a high percentage of astroturfers. Reading highly modded comments like "Universities don't make drugs, dummy! They just license them to drug companies at which point it's completely out of their hands." and "If you don't pay market price for your life-saving drugs then no one will do research and the terrorists win!" I hope these are astroturfers, anyways.

First, at least, read the opening of the Consensus Statement [essentialmedicine.org] .

Oh no! Someone's suggested charging poor people a price they can afford for the drugs they need to survive the multitude of plagues that they suffer through! And they've also suggested universities research "less profitable" diseases! This is a horrible idea. Because... um... free market... invisible hand... survival of the fittest... blah blah blah.

If you're sick and dying, you can't work, you can't support your family, you can't even protest the fact that you're sick and dying. Now, in many of these cases, either A) no rich people have your disease and so no big university/company has funded enough research to find a treatment or B) not enough rich people have had your disease for long enough so the treatment created by a big university/company is still protected under international patent law and so costs more money than you could ever make.

The idea that research (most of which is heavily subsidized) should be directed toward doing the most good and not making the most money should not be so quickly ridiculed. Those of you posting that Universities will no longer do research if they can't make money off it need to ask yourselves what is the difference between a research university and a pharmaceutical company?

And, at this point, whether they're universities or drug companies, the people doing medical research aren't hurting for money. But profit maximization means that people who cannot pay (because they are dieing) do not get treated.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?