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Researchers Work Around Hepatitis Drug Patent

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the academia-vs.-big-pharma dept.

Biotech 298

Several readers let us know about a pair of British researchers who found a workaround to patents covering drugs used to treat hepatitis C. The developers intend to produce a drug cheap enough to supply to people in the poorest parts of the world. The scientists found another way to bind a sugar to interferon, producing a drug they say should be as long-lasting and effective as those sold (at $14,000 for a year's supply) by patent holders Hoffman-La Roche and Schering Plough. Clinical trials could begin by 2008. The article quotes developer Sunil Shaunak of Imperial College London: "We in academic medicine can either choose to use our ideas to make large sums of money for small numbers of people, or to look outwards to the global community and make affordable medicines."

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SPANKU (1)

zptao (979069) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441032)

SPANKSU!

Thumbs up! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441094)

Before the arguments about the effectiveness of this drug compared to the patented one, the morality of patents on medicine and the soviet russia jokes break out; I'd like to show my respect for these people. It's great to see this effort!

Re:Thumbs up! (4, Informative)

wasted (94866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441152)

Before the arguments about the effectiveness of this drug compared to the patented one, the morality of patents on medicine and the soviet russia jokes break out; I'd like to show my respect for these people. It's great to see this effort!

Another patented drug to treat Hep C [reuters.com] is on its way as well.

Re:Thumbs up! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441578)

Just to clear something up, do companies get a patent on
A) the medicine
B) the process(es) necessary to make the medicine?

Re:Thumbs up! (3, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441622)

Chemical compounds as such are not patentable. Their use for a specific purpose, synthesis and administration are. That is usually enough to protect a drug to a point where you have effectively patented the compound.

Re:Thumbs up! (2, Informative)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441816)

Depends on the patent system. IIRC, the system in India specifically only granted the patent on the specific process to make the compound, which let generics manufacturers develop different methods of synthesis and produce the same compound. While, again, if I remember correctly, other countries granted the patent on the method by which the specific compound worked, essentially meaning the medicine itself is patented.

Re:Thumbs up! (2, Funny)

MidVicious (1045984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441162)

In Soviet Russia, drugs patent you!

Thanks for the assist ;)

Re:Thumbs up! (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441374)

In capitalistic America, drug companies patent your genes. That will be 1 million dollars for infringing, payable up front.

Re:Thumbs up! (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441582)

This scares me, it means that the guy in Highschool that said he was going to patent his nut sack might not have been kidding, which means he could actually become rich enough to hunt me down & demand the $5 I bet him that he couldn't.

Patent ruling is waste of resources (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441098)

Isn't it pathetic that researchers or bussinesses try to find workarounds for patents? This kind of news shows that patent ruling is totally flawed by design. I'm in favor of giving inventor a commercial advantage for his/her invention. This can be tax reduction for product using this patent etc. But giving inventor a monopolistic right is stupid however you evaluate the idea.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (4, Insightful)

joelt49 (637701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441146)

No, it's not. Inventor's don't have to share anything with the outside world. Patents are simply recognizing the inventor's right to say, "I'll show you how to do X if you promise to do Y." Why shouldn't the inventor have the right do do that? It's his invention after all. There may be specific problems with the implementation of our current patent system, sure. But granting monopolistic privileges in some form is still a good idea and respect's the inventor's rights.

the so-called "inventor's rights" are in fact ... (5, Informative)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441204)

... just vehicles to ensure progress.

there is no such thing as a "natural right" an inventor has: patent law builds on the premise that a patent is a reward and that many people like to be rewarded.

you are confusing it with copyright law - which grants the author rights because it is his creation - no one else could habe written harry potter, for example. in contrast, sooner or later someone figures out how molecule XYZ can be synthesized - there usually is no "personal creativity" involved.

Re:the so-called "inventor's rights" are in fact . (3, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441356)

Actually, copyright is specifically NOT a natural right in the US, although it is considered one in Europe. That was a major hangup in copyright treaties, until they agreed to disagree.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (5, Informative)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441208)

Perhaps you've heard of the Hippocratic Oath?

The relevant bit:

To look upon his children as my own brothers[1], to teach them this art if they so desire without fee or written promise; to impart to my sons and the sons of the master who taught me and the disciples who have enrolled themselves and have agreed to the rules of the profession, but to these alone the precepts and the instruction.


[1] An earlier bit mentions the oath taker's "parents." These are to be understood to be his mentors. Thus "his children" are the oath taker's peers.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441250)

> Why shouldn't the inventor have the right do do that?

Because if someone chooses to ignore the inventor and tells the inventor to "shove X", the inventor can still shut them down, even though the inventor has made zero contribution.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (4, Insightful)

vandan (151516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441390)

No, it's not. Inventor's don't have to share anything with the outside world.

And where did this inventor get their education from? And their materials? And their food?

It is the responsibility of inventors to share their ideas with all society. As others have pointed out, they have a right to make a fair living off these ideas. But there is a limit to how 'fair' you can get, and making billions of dollars in profits while others are suffering and dying is going way past that point.

Joelt, You need to have a good, long think about yourself. Profit is not the most important thing in the world.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (0, Troll)

BCoates (512464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441528)

And where did this inventor get their education from? And their materials? And their food?
um, from those billions of dollars of profits you were complaining about?

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441554)

you're not the sharpest knife eh?

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (3, Insightful)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441630)

Profit is not the most important thing in the world.

Perhaps, but the most important thing in the world happens to like guys with big, profits.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (3, Interesting)

hclyff (925743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441684)

And where did this inventor get their education from
Absolutely. All discoveries are done based on previous published research. If every pharmaceutical company kept their research to themselves, there wouldn't be much progress really. Not to mention that in academia, if you don't publish you don't exist. That's where patents sort of come in, to allow and encourage publishing of results done by private companies.

Think of it this way: if those companies weren't guaranteed profit in case of discovering something useful, they wouldn't do the research in the first place.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (5, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441832)

"Think of it this way: if those companies weren't guaranteed profit in case of discovering something useful, they wouldn't do the research in the first place."

Except, of course, they're not guaranteed the profit for the research, they're guaranteed the profit from having a monopoly. Which essentially means their incentive is to get as much profit out of the monopoly as possible (ie, a huge incentive for marketing) while investing the bare minimum necessary to gain another monopoly into research.

And, of course, ignoring the fact that if we didnt grant those monopolies could very well be spending the money now going to the pharmas directly on research instead, thus getting more than five times the R&D done for the same amount of money we spend on medicines today.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441916)

But there is a limit to how 'fair' you can get, and making billions of dollars in profits while others are suffering and dying is going way past that point.

Agreed. When pieces of paper and slugs of metal become more important than people it's a sad, sad day.
Nice to see people in developed nations taking an interest in helping those who need help without trying to take them to the cleaners.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

cas2000 (148703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441450)

Inventor's don't have to share anything with the outside world. Patents are simply recognizing the inventor's right to say, "I'll show you how to do X if you promise to do Y."


patents do a lot more than that - they also say "and nobody else is allowed to independently invent it either".

in most countries, it's not even the first to come up with an idea, it's the first to FILE for the patent that gets the monopoly.

Why shouldn't the inventor have the right do do that? It's his invention after all.


a) why shouldn't someone who independently comes up with the same or similar idea be able to do whatever they want with it?

b) ideas don't and can't belong to anyone. any monopoly of them is an artificial government-mandated one, a socialist intervention in the marketplace.

c) the justification for patents is that they encourage innovation and the eventual sharing of ideas. that may have been true a few hundred years ago now, but it's certainly not true today. if anything, patents STIFLE innovation, not encourage it. there's also a sufficient body of public knowledge and a sufficiently widespread ethos of both sharing and research for the common good that there is more than enough "incentive" to research anything that we actually need.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441458)

It's his invention after all.
Not quite, I would agree if :
he educated himself, and he didn't get any money from anyone to do his research.
quoting Isaac Newton : "it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Referring to the fact that he uses older research to be able to do his. /http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand_on_the_shoulde rs_of_giants [slashdot.org]

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441856)

Actually, even better, he should start out in a cave and work from there. After all, why grant an exclusive right on something when most of it comes from the public pool of knowledge anyway?

And, hey, maybe if he's a super genious he might get as far as figuring out how a pointed stick works.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441568)

"I'll show you how to do X if you promise to do Y." Why shouldn't the inventor have the right do do that? It's his invention after all.

The problem is that many discoveries are also given this treatment, preventing use by others who independently discover the same thing.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

Cpt. Fwiffo (42356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441818)

There is no problem in my mind with having patents recognizing the inventor's right to say "I'll show you how to do X if you promise to do Y.".
They should have such right.

The problem is that
a) the size of Y is deemed inappropriate to X
(which is where most of the disucssion is about), and
b) If you or I figure out a similar way of doing X on ourselves we can still be disallowed to do X. In effect, this gives a monopoly of doing X, and everything derived from it

Now, for every X figured out, fruitless research adds up to Y, as Y for some reason is seen as an acceptable cost-post (sp?) for all fruitless research.
With that structure in place, fruitless research becomes 'costless', as it only adds to Y, which is unrelated to the current research.
Is this fair? No.
Do we want it to be fair? In this case, the benefit is that fruitless research is being done. As it can be argued that there is no such thing as fruitless research, just research not giving viable results or yields, it might as well add to Y.

However, this is all nice and dandy, but now Y has risen, because not only am I allowed to do X, I also pay for a lot of fruitless research. And *that* I don't see results of. Moreover, this fruitless research can still be patented on its own, possibly becoming profitable later on even though it has already been paid for!.
I'll gladly pay Y, if I only pay for X, or also get what I paid for, namely all the research which was (possibly) fruitless.
You want to keep research to yourself? that's your risk, with your cost which has nothing to do with what I am getting.

just Gimme mah pie, dammit!

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441148)

it makes matters even worse that patents were thought as a means to ensure progress. working aroung a patent yields no further progress.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441572)

Careful with the absolutes...
Suppose that this university-developed Hepatitis-C drug, the one that had to work around that patent, turns out to be more effective than the original because of that work-around? Then we would have progress, and likely we'd have it before the corp. with the patent decided to try it.
It may be unlikely. But it's possible.

Re:Patent ruling is waste of resources (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441788)

Isn't it pathetic that researchers or businesses try to find workarounds for patents?
Ordinarily I'd say yes but the drug industry has been doing the same thing for years. It's an established business practice to produce an almost identical drug to an existing one, with the same effect and 99.9% structure then market it as new/improved with a corresponding price hike.
Basically these guys have just done cheaply for the end user what the drug co's do expensively. Hoisted by their own petard.

that's a nice sentiment (-1, Troll)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441108)

but the reality is, testing, getting regulatory approval, the risk of lawsuits, and (in the US) the health insurance industry are responsible for high drug prices. It sounds like these researchers are suggesting we can save money by testing drugs on 3rd world, uneducated "volunteers". About what I'd expect form the British.

Re:that's a nice sentiment (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441172)

You missed the profits. Don't forget the silly profits. Almost £7 billion profit for Glaxosmithkline. You read that right - £7,000,000,000 - or $14,000,000,000.

They're suggesting making cheap drugs, keeping the patents away from big companies, and having clinical testing subsidised by the countries where they'd be used (which seems fair if they aren't trying to profiteer), as well as developing drugs on obscure illnesses which the west doesn't have (and big business ignores). It's a win/win situation. Stop making a noble effort sound like something bad.

Re:that's a nice sentiment (2, Insightful)

wired_LAIN (974675) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441244)

Keep in mind that what is deemed an unacceptable drug in the developed world can be a huge benefit to developing nations. For example, lets say I have a very cheap drug that cures malaria in 80% of patients, but causes severe side effects in the remaining 20%. Clearly, this is unacceptable in the USA or other developed nations. However, in many countries in Africa, where millions of people die from malaria every year, this drug is perfect - its cheap, and it cures most of the patients. Regardless of the reletively high side effects, the benefit is enough that a drug like this would be considered a godsend by nearly all sub-saharan nations.

Re:that's a nice sentiment (1)

Basje (26968) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441254)

That is a gross oversimplyfication.

I know and understand that companies often act unethical and there is a need to protect people from unethical behaviour. But if the development of medicine could take place in developing countries, the prices could be much lower even if we keep the companies to the same moral standards we like to do in western society.

Many people protest against poor developing countries having to pay high prices for medicine. At the same time arguments like yours keep it that way. It's not a simple problem.

fallacious (0, Troll)

joelt49 (637701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441114)

The statement, "We in academic medicine can either choose to use our ideas to make large sums of money for small numbers of people, or to look outwards to the global community and make affordable medicines," is fallacious. Here's why.

1. Drug companies have to turn a profit; otherwise, they don't produce the drugs.
2. The more money a drug company makes off a medicine, the more valuable it is. A drug company's profits are a function of how much people value that drug -- the drug's social utility (this is basic economics).
3. Once the drug companies patents run out, anyone can produce generic medicines cheaply.

Large profits give drug companies an incentive to develop the most useful medicines (the more profit, the more useful it is), and bringing a drug to market is very, very costly, especially in the US with the f*cked up FDA and all that. However, patents do expire after a time, and then everyone can benefit from the cheap medicines.

Look at it this way: What's better -- not having a drug at all, or having the drug be very costly for about 14 years and then having cheap generic equivalents? (While you can make the argument that a specific drug X or Y would still be developed in the absence of profit motives, this is overlooking the fact that reduced profits mean a reduced incentive to produce drugs in the future. This won't apply to every single drug, but rather is a statement about a general trend which does have exceptions.)

Re:fallacious (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441154)

Unlikely. As the above example shows, you don't need extra profit to develop a new drug. Patenting a drug, thus making it unavailable to someone else is plain murder. A more sophisticated and 'civilised' way of murder, but still it is murder for money.

Re:fallacious (2, Insightful)

joelt49 (637701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441212)

Your comment shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way things work in a capitalist society. Even with this drug, the researchers will have to convince some drug company to manufacture and distribute this drug. How will they do it? By convincing the manufacturer that they will be able to make a profit off of it. Here's the crux of the issue -- you state, As the above example shows, you don't need extra profit to develop a new drug. That's true. But in rare circumstances. The key is when you say "a" new drug. Not many new drugs. Why hasn't this method been used for lots of other patented drugs? Most likely b/c it's impracticable on a large scale.

You're unlikely to replicate the research large drug companies do in academia. Somebody has to pay for the research. The money has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is usually from profits from drugs. And as I said earlier, profits are an indication of social utility -- how much people value the drug. The more profits, the more people value the drug. The larger the profit, the more good the drug does, and the more incentive to produce that drug (which is why capitalism is pretty cool). While you are denying people the drug now, it will be available to them in the future. With most patented medicines, the drug wouldn't have been developed in the first place if the drug companies didn't think they could have turned a profit. As I said, it's better to have the drug available in 14 years or so (or however long patents expire) than not have the drug available at all.

And admittedly, I haven't read the article. However, the summary mentions that the researchers are mimicking the actions of a patented drug. How do you think it was found out that this particular action helped in the first place? I'd be willing to bet my $.02 that it came from commercial drug companies hoping to make a profit.

Bottom line: Drug companies have to make a profit. They have to recover costs (and R&D costs are huge, as are clinical trials, and a lot of money gets spent researching drugs that will never make it to market). Patents ensure this and also incentivize drug companies to develop the most useful medicines.

Re:fallacious (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441456)

These researchers don't work for a drug company they work at a university. What they're saying is that most research is now commercialised and findings like this would normally be licensed to a big company. This is at odds with the traditional view of public research which was for the benefit of everybody. Pretty rare to find any serious research going on nowadays that isn't either sold to or spun off into a commercial enterprise. Licensing the technology to all takers for a modest amount means they don't have to find anybody to make and market these drugs because the need will inevitably lead to somebody picking it up be it a government or charitable organisation.

Re:fallacious (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441478)

Even with this drug, the researchers will have to convince some drug company to manufacture and distribute this drug. How will they do it? By convincing the manufacturer that they will be able to make a profit off of it.

Since this drug is in high demand with the governments of several nations it shouldn't be hard to find someone to make these even if it wasn't profitable. If in doubt you'd just rely on the cheap meds industry that usually makes medicine whose patents have expired. Considering the high prices of most drugs that are still under patents (and that this drug is a competitor to a very expensive drug) selling them at a lower price than the patented drug would make it easy to take most if not all of the market from the competition. Since these are aimed at developing nations and those can't really afford a 16k$/a treatment it not only steals the original drug's market but also covers markets the original drug did not.

Hey, there are governments willing to declare martial law just to circumvent drug patents. There's a LOT of demand for drugs that treat third world diseases while being sold at third world prices.

Re:fallacious (2, Insightful)

bitkari (195639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441498)

You're unlikely to replicate the research large drug companies do in academia.

The good folk at The Wellcome Trust [wellcome.ac.uk] might disagree with you there.

And unlike purely commercial entities, and while they do commercialise some of their efforts, they aren't trying to extract as much profit as possible like Pfizer, GSK, AstraZeneca are.

Bottom line: Drug companies have to make a profit. They have to recover costs

Drug companies DO have to make a profit, but to say that this is to recoup their R&D costs is a little naive. These companies must return a substantial profit for their shareholders. R&D is simply a means to an end, and that end is shareholder value.

Non-profit entities (as nicely detailed in TFA) are quite able to make great advances in medical science without the requirement for profit.

Pharmaceutical companies could then strive to manufacture these "open" drugs in as an efficient way as possible, in an effort to compete with other manufacturers. This competitiveness would give us, the public cheap, quality drugs, and allow the manufacturing companies to make a profit.

This is capitalism as it should be. This is medicine as it should be.

Re:fallacious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17442172)

I salute these guys anyway, mostly because I am poor and have active hepatitis C and my health is worsening quite fast. In other words I will die slowly in a few years, just to make shareholders of Schering-Plough , Glaxo-Smith Kline etc happy.
I have never understood why drug companies choose not to sell or license drugs for cheaper prices for a poorer nations. They won't have a huge profit probably, but it will be a profit anyway. Instead they just let people die if they can't keep up with their profit margins. Their business position is simple - buy our price,or die, no talk.
Also remember most research is done in universities and other organizations, drug companies just snatch most valuable research and make profit from it.

P.S. in my country most of drug distrubutors have roots in organized crime groups. Legal drug business is so profitable (and legal) so they try to keep their hands on it at all costs and methods possible.

**Bullshit** (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441178)

You've swallowed the propaganda hook line and sinker. The view you espouse is not rational but religious. A product of your cloistered upbringing.

There are other models which work. Cooperation also works. Need proof? Just look at Free Software, Linux, ... Ask Microsoft where their most serious competition is coming from.

What you are promoting is racketeering and monopoly, not capitalism. Racketeering and monopoly do not promote competition or progress.

Re:**Bullshit** (2, Interesting)

joelt49 (637701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441298)

Sorry for the flamebait, but you're a moron. Here's why:

1. The software development industry is very different from the drug industry. In particular, look at the costs of bringing something to market. It costs far more to bring a patented drug to market than it does a computer program. So you have higher costs you have to recover.
2. Where does a lot of support for Linux come from? Companies like Red Hat and IBM, who are also competing and want to turn a profit. However, IBM and Red Hat can support different niches of the market without competing directly. This is harder to do with prescription drugs.
3. In effect, cooperation and competition are competing models. Cooperation appears to be working well in software (I'm currently using Firefox on Gentoo), but that model has failed to gain serious traction in the drug industry. If cooperation like this is so great, why hasn't it flourished more? Why aren't we seeing more stories of people cooperating like this working on new drugs?

Sigh, why do I try to promote standard, mainstream economics on /.?

Re:**Bullshit** (1)

Velk (807487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441350)

1. The software development industry is very different from the drug industry. In particular, look at the costs of bringing something to market. It costs far more to bring a patented drug to market than it does a computer program. So you have higher costs you have to recover.
Maybe on average - I would be astonished if any drug cost more than windows vista to develop for example.

Re:**Bullshit** (1)

moggie_xev (695282) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441656)

Vista is not an average piece of software, people seem to be guessing that it cost's about 10 billion [nwsource.com] to develop.

While the average drug cost's between .8 and 2 billion dollars to develop [state.gov] . The cost are pretty simular I would say.

Most of the money in actual development is caused by the amount of care taken in developing the drug, There is a definite wish not to kill people. Now if we could only reduce the cost of advertising.

yes, you are (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441186)

1. Drug companies have to turn a profit; otherwise, they don't produce the drugs.


Drug companies spend far more money on advertising than they do on research and development. The next time you watch "Wheel of Fortune", you might realize that the billions of dollars being spent pushing viagra and nexium on everyone are NOT making their way to fundamental advances in science.


2. The more money a drug company makes off a medicine, the more valuable it is. A drug company's profits are a function of how much people value that drug -- the drug's social utility (this is basic economics).


No matter what the local basement-dwelling Rand-ite may tell you, economics is not a science and is not necessarily the best model for health care. Human welfare is not a widget that can (or should) be bought and sold like a car or an mp3 player.


3. Once the drug companies patents run out, anyone can produce generic medicines cheaply.


And how many millions of people will die in the meantime?

Re:yes, you are (1)

joelt49 (637701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441230)

3. Once the drug companies patents run out, anyone can produce generic medicines cheaply.
And how many millions of people will die in the meantime?


And how many millions would have died had the drug never been brought to the market in the first place?

Re:yes, you are (1)

kg4czo (516374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441494)

You're a bit confused. Lives are lives.

The fact that a drug that a drug is brought to market and can save lives doesn't mean it's available to everyone. It's available to those who can either pay or have insurance. Making a valuation on someone's life because of what they have or don't have in the bank is wrong, in the most literal sense.

Drug companies should be obligated to allow at least one generic per name-brand drug they produce and patent. It may mean a little less advertising and Dr. smoozing money, but the rewards are more valuable than any amount of money.

Re:yes, you are (1)

Tsagadai (922574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441798)

3. Once the drug companies patents run out, anyone can produce generic medicines cheaply. And how many millions of people will die in the meantime? And how many millions would have died had the drug never been brought to the market in the first place?
The same number of millions who won't use it because they can't afford it.

Re:yes, you are (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441522)

The makers of Viagra are advertising on Wheel of Fortune? That's the show with the roulette looking wheel? (threw out the TV years ago) Lets see, Viagra, Wheel of Fortune, roulette,,,, something Freudian here but I can't quite slip into it, maybe I am just Russian things.

Re:yes, you are (1)

TommyMc (949670) | more than 7 years ago | (#17442160)

Drug companies spend far more money on advertising than they do on research and development.

Are the drug companies spending money on advertising for fun, or is it with the aim of producing a return? Presumably, they are aware of the economics of their field and know the balance for return on R + D, and return on advertising. Also, genuine question, do you have the figures to verify this statement? I have an interest in this anyway, so i'm not just trying to undermine your argument.

economics is not a science and is not necessarily the best model for health care.

Do you have an alternative? It seems to work quite well. As someone who worked for some time in a pharmacy, there seems to be a proliferation of drug treatments at the moment, not for trivial things either. There are, it is true, some tricks that have been used to preserve patents by businessmen trying to protect their interest in the face of losing patents to generic production, but from what i've seen, it's rare. Certainly in the time that i was working there, some significant drugs went off-patent and the entire supply switched to generic (the doctors are well aware of the difference. Some people will try to claim that doctors are ignorant. They're just not.)

Do you think if it was government-led, that they would just give away the drugs they'd spent billions developing? I wish there was an ideal middle ground between generating revenue for R + D and being able to sell it at a price which does not exclude the third world, everyone in the world does. But if there is one, i'm yet to hear it, so it seems to be a case of continue as we are, regulate where we can and hope that charity etc. makes up some of the difference.

Re:fallacious (1)

wired_LAIN (974675) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441198)

There are alternatives... like for example, allowing generics to be sold in 3rd world countries while preserving the patent in the USA & other developed nations. Or they could do zone pricing, where certain zones get cheaper drugs. The latter might even bring in a profit for the company, allowing them to sell to consumers (in developing countries) who previously could not afford the patent-inflated prices. Yes, I'm aware that there could be issues with this (smuggling the cheaper drugs back into developed countries), but I'd say that the benefits (millions of lives saved or improved) vastly outweighs the effort required to overcome these barriers.

Re:fallacious (1)

joelt49 (637701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441248)

I never said the current system was perfect. I will agree that it (like everything else) is imperfect.

OTOH, be aware that, for example, companies tried to develop cheap generics of patented AIDS drugs for use in Africa. And they didn't go through thorough testing. And it turned out that the drugs weren't as good as the brand-name ones (in this case, it involved taking cocktails of drugs and putting them into one pill -- something even the patent holders hadn't been able to do successfully). In this case, the drugs weren't as effective, which then led to drug-resistant HIV viruses surviving.

Good intentions, yes. But we know where they lead....

Re:fallacious !!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441544)

OTOH, be aware that, for example, companies tried to develop cheap generics of patented AIDS drugs for use in Africa. And they didn't go through thorough testing. And it turned out that the drugs weren't as good as the brand-name ones (in this case, it involved taking cocktails of drugs and putting them into one pill -- something even the patent holders hadn't been able to do successfully). In this case, the drugs weren't as effective, which then led to drug-resistant HIV viruses surviving.
someone right in front of my monitor screams "LOGICAL FALLACY" !

Re:fallacious (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441224)

Problem is that most money is not spend on research but on advertisement... about 2/3rd of the drug money goes into ads, and marketing.

Re:fallacious (1)

BCoates (512464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441484)

It doesn't matter how much they spend on advertising. It's not an alternative to paying for research. There isn't some fixed pile of money in the industry being divided up between research and advertisment. The investment world will dump as much money on pharma companies as the investors are guessing can be spent and return a profit.

If advertising the hell out of a product during a drug's short patent life increases the total profit, that means more return for investors, which means the whole industry can support that many more billions of dollars a year in investment before the profits get diluted back to the same return rate everything else gets. Some of this money will be spent on research, research that wouldn't happen otherwise.

If they cut back on advertisements (which net a profit for the company or they wouldn't be doing them), they wouldn't have more money for research, they'd have less money period, as the investors would just go elsewhere.

Not at all (2, Insightful)

Habrok (987413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441236)

It was "we in academic medicine", not "we in corporate medicine". Academic research is not motivated by profits, or at least, it should not be.

Secondly, you can't really apply demand-supply analysis on life-saving drugs. When it is a matter of life and death (and there isn't any alternative product), the demand is infinite.

Thirdly, it is quite possible to provide economic (and other) incentives to researchers, even without patents.

You know, there's a reason why doctors take the hippocratic oath [wikipedia.org] . Medical researchers should do well to remember those reasons.

Re:fallacious (4, Insightful)

GravelordBocephus (873797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441260)

"(the more profit, the more useful it is)" So a treatment for cancer taken three times daily for the rest of your life is more useful than a cure for cancer? I'll keep that in mind.

Treating is better than curing. (1)

splutty (43475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441540)

"(the more profit, the more useful it is)" So a treatment for cancer taken three times daily for the rest of your life is more useful than a cure for cancer? I'll keep that in mind.

Bingo. You got it in one. The same goes for a lot of other fields as well. Take for example Diabetes-B, which is a controllable disease, as long as you check your bloodsugarlevel 2 times a day, and either use insulin or dieting restriction to adjust for it.

However, to do these tests, you need testsstrips, which are not very cheap, and (surprise!) don't get covered by almost all medical insurances. What *does* get covered is the amputation required when your extremities start dying off. Something that could've been very easilly prevented by aforementioned checks.

The hospitals and the insurance companies make more 'profit' off of those amputations than off of patients that need a steady supply of not-so-cheap teststrips.

So yeah, you got it in once. Treating the symptoms is (for the corporate world) almost always better than curing the disease.

Splut.

Re:Treating is better than curing. (1)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441692)

Bad example.
Glucose testers and the related test-strips are treatments for diabetes. No one has been cured of diabetes simply by blood-sugar testing. The strips are expensive, but enough people do buy them that the corps. who make them find them profitable. The strips are far less expensive than most brand-name drugs would be without insurance.
Amputation is a treatment/cure for gangrene. It doesn't do anything for the underlying diabetes, but it does get rid of the existing dead tissue once and for all. Amputations aren't done often, and they aren't done to the same tissue twice.
Hospitals and insurance cos. may make more money from amputations. Big Pharma makes more from glucose test strips, insulin, and whatever new blood-sugar-controlling drugs they've invented. (Yes, there are diabetic drugs that are not insulin, and they're not unpopular.)

Re:fallacious (1)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441280)

The more money a drug company makes off a medicine, the more valuable it is. A drug company's profits are a function of how much people value that drug -- the drug's social utility (this is basic economics).

And this relationship explains the focus on treatments rather than cures, on insomnia rather than malaria, and on legal games* and marketing rather than research. I'll give you a fun fact, namely that only 15-20% of the average pharmaceutical's budget goes to research, far more goes to advertising (classy huh?).

There is value in some sort of protection for medical IP, but this story is a perfect example of where your argument doesn't apply, and isn't accurate. No profits, yet somehow the drug was developed anyway and will now have far greater utility. Profit as motive doesn't always work, particularly when the richest people tend to have the pettiest health concerns. Why make something for Javier dirt farmer (when he only has a few bucks to give you) when you can make something for joe gated community and he has insurance? And the answer is of course you wouldn't and so you make yet another well marketed ED med, instead of something for Typhoid.

* read (for example) about getting another few years by filing claims pretending to be consumers concerned about the effectiveness of generic replacements or getting another 20 simply by gel coating the drug

Re:fallacious (5, Insightful)

FinalMidnight (652617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441294)

Wow! I'm gobsmacked at your sheer, unabashed ignorance of "The way things work".

To the first: what do you think the ratio of new drug research is to profits? For a major drug company? Conversely, what do you think the ratio of marketing vs profits? Got a clue? No? Feel free to go do a little googling. It is an open secret that drug companies spend almost nothing (compared) on research into new drugs. Even then the research directed is in very, very specific (eg profitable) areas. Hint! It makes a lot more money to market a drug for "Erectile Disfunction" than to actually make a simple, cheap cure for just about any disease you care to name.

To address your second point: The profits made from a drug are a reflection of the profitability of that drug. Nothing more or less. Concrete examples of how _value_ and _profit_ are distinct concepts to follow.

To the third: Once patents run out, drug companies market new, patented drugs. Older, generic drugs are not marketed. Part of the reason this happens is that drug companies advertise directly to doctors (who write the perceptions) and part of the reason is that drug stores make more money selling drugs that cost more. There are a bunch of simple ways to fix most of this in legislation. That, however, is another can of worms.

Examples of point two and the relationship with point three:

Ritalin: Heard of it? Great! How about Dexamphetamine? Not so much? Little known fact! Dexampetamine is a more effective treatment for ADD and ADHD than Ritalin. However it is perscribed less than a fifth as much. Why? Because the patents on Dexamphetamine ran out years ago. It can be made by any drug company and is a commodity item. Profits are very, very low. Ritalin is very profitable because it is a treatment. A patient will need to continue to take Rtalin for years. Possibly forever. Profitability: High! Value: Fuck All! Ritalin does a worse job than a drug that costs less than a third of the price.

Treatment of stomach ulcers: A method of curing stomach ulcers has been around for more than ten years. Thats right, A complete cure! The Australian who discovered the cure was under attack from many major drug companies, who attempted to discredit him and his research. Why? Because anti-acid treatments of stomach ucers are a) Patented and b) something that needs to be taken _forever_. The cure relys on a simple, generic anti-biotic and some mineral treatments. Not patentable, therefore no profits.

If you give a shit about any of these issues, you might be interested in the process of testing and approval that goes on in the USA compared to other countries (Like the UK or Canada) and what the differences mean. You might also be interested in the "Evergreening" of medical patents and the blatant kickbacks that medical companies give Doctors and Pharmacists.

And YES, I am a fucking Pharmacist.

Re:fallacious (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441482)

I work in the financial side of the health care industry (auditing hospitals, basically). I'd like to comment on your peptic ulcer example.

It is well understood that most (around 75%) of peptic ulcers are caused by an H. pylori infection. Unfortunately, the other 25% are caused by potentially serious conditions. My boss, an M.D./Ph.D. told me and my colleagues that he wouldn't hesitate to prescribe a round of antibiotics to his family members and trusted associates for an ulcer in lieu of invasive tests. But a doctor's liability is too high for that to become common in a hospital setting, leading to expensive invasive procedures.

Sorry for the tangent -- your comments reminded me of what my boss said. I don't intend to dispute your point regarding ulcer treatments. It is a practice our company intends to stamp out.

Re:fallacious (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441942)

Also Ritalin has nice side effects that make me think I'd rather have AD(H)D than take that crap.

Re:fallacious (3, Interesting)

janek78 (861508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17442148)

Could you clarify that about treatment for stomach ulcers? I thought that omeprazole was already off patent (we have 11 brands available here in the Czech Republic). The cost of treatment for omeprazole is about $0.33 to $1 a day here. It is usually given for 6 weeks, so the total cost is something up to $40. And it actually compeletely cures the ulcers! Wow! Amazing.

I suggest you go back freshen up a little before you come preaching here.

And YES, I am a fucking doctor and no I don't have any shares of pharma companies. :)

Re:fallacious (2, Interesting)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441330)

1. Drug companies have to turn a profit; otherwise, they don't produce the drugs.

False. Research can be done under the auspices of a non-profit organization or university, as was done in this case.

2. The more money a drug company makes off a medicine, the more valuable it is. A drug company's profits are a function of how much people value that drug -- the drug's social utility (this is basic economics).

Clearly false. An effective, cheap vaccine against HIV, say, would be far more valuable than all the Viagra in the world.

3. Once the drug companies patents run out, anyone can produce generic medicines cheaply.

Yes, after denying the public access for 20 years. Ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath? See: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=214714&cid=174 41208 [slashdot.org]

Funnily enough, you misinterpreted Professor Shaunak's quote. Here's some context from the BBC article:

Currently, many of the scientific advances which eventually lead to effective treatments are developed within universities or by researchers working for charities, but that 'intellectual property' is then sold to pharmaceutical companies who bring the product to market.

Professor Shaunak called for a different approach - for academic institutions to go into competition for cures with 'big pharma'.

"We in academic medicine can either choose to use our ideas to make large sums of money for small numbers of people, or to look outwards to the global community and make affordable medicines."

Re:fallacious (1)

Xenna (37238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441584)

Clearly false. An effective, cheap vaccine against HIV, say, would be far more valuable than all the Viagra in the world.

More valuable by whose standard? How did most of these people get HIV in the first place? Because at some point they valued having sex higher than the perceived risk of getting HIV. Apparently, people value having sex a lot. That's not surprising, evolution would suggest procreation is as important as self preservation. Therefore a drug that helps people having better/more sex may very well be valued more than a vaccine that lowers the perceived risk of getting HIV depending on who you ask.

Obviously a vaccine against HIV would help everyone having more/better sex too, so I guess it's not such a very good example. My point is that it's very difficult to make these value decisions for other people. For me the value of lighting a cigarette is very negative. I never smoked. Other people value it so much that they're willing to risk their lives for it.

The money flow is just an indication of the underlying value system.

We're not that rational, really...

X.

Re:fallacious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441646)

The money flow is just an indication of the underlying value system.

You're autistic, right?

Let me break it down for you: According to the money flow metric you espouse, you are more valuable than about 200 africans. That's wrong. Very very wrong.

Comparing a drug that gives an old fart a boner to a drug that can stop the spread of a deadly disease is wrong. Very wrong.

Grow some compassion.

Re:fallacious (1)

Xenna (37238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17442114)

You're autistic, right?

No, but apparently the incidency among AC's is rather high...

According to the money flow metric you espouse, you are more valuable than about 200 africans. That's wrong. Very very wrong.

That depends on the Africans in question. Some of them are actually richer than me. In any case wrong has nothing to do with it. It's the only way things appear to work. Systems based on fairness have been tried many times but they always turned out even worse than good old capitalism. However great your ideals, you are responsible for the effects if things turn out badly.

Perhaps, once you get out of puberty, you will reach the same conclusion. It requires an open mind and a healthy interest in the facts. I think it's a wonderful idea for people to try to create free or low cost medicines, but let's not try to break a system that has given us unparalleled health and technology, shall we?

Comparing a drug that gives an old fart a boner to a drug that can stop the spread of a deadly disease is wrong. Very wrong.

It wasn't my idea to compare the two.

Grow some compassion.

In sensible people compassion is governed by ratio.

The university people in the article could have chosen a better path by starting a company and using their ideologically limited profits to develope more medicines. Bill Gates may or may not be a rat, I'm pretty much convinced that he has done more to fight malaria than you and me put together.

X.

Re:fallacious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441734)

You measure value in resources, as in exchange within a world economy.

Trouble is that many Africans don't really produce a lot that's valued a lot by the world, so they aren't yet a rich country. Industrialized nations make money by producing lots of interesting goods, so they have money to burn on medicine.

Higher life standard follows development.

I'm all in favor of doctors and companies trying to help poor people, mind you, I'm only explaining the situation. The best would be if Africa would get their brains together and start building an economy, instead of that stupid gang-fighting and dictatorship mess they're having down there. There have to be certain preconditions for an economy to thrive (and the EU and USA had those conditions, so they could develop, just like many Asian nations do, right now), and many/most African countries simply don't have those conditions in place, just like many South-American countries don't too much, either. Yes it's sad, but that's the reason Africa doesn't get cheap medicine. If you don't like that, change their economy, or develop drugs for them yourself.

Re:fallacious (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441362)

1. Drug companies have to turn a profit; otherwise, they don't produce the drugs.

Do they really? Perhaps drug research should be limited by law to universities and not-for-profit organisations. The people who do the actual research are not the ones that rake in the hundreds of billions each year - that's the stockholders, who by God have enough already.

2. The more money a drug company makes off a medicine, the more valuable it is. A drug company's profits are a function of how much people value that drug -- the drug's social utility (this is basic economics).

Which is why they tend to do far more research in luxury problems (such as rejuvenation and weight loss for rich Americans) rather than trying to solve the big devastating diseases of the poor, such as malaria and other major killers. If they were not in it only for the money, they could solve those problems in just a few years - it is only a question of effort. But as I once heard a doctor friend of mine say: The medicine companies don't like medicine that cures people - once you cure a disease, you don't more money from that patient.

3. Once the drug companies patents run out, anyone can produce generic medicines cheaply.

Well, then the patents should run out far more quickly than they do now. The patent system was created in a time where communication and research happened a lot more slowly, and it made sense that you could hold a monopoly for a longish interval; but nowadays 20 years of monopoly is totally out of proportion. I'd say the expiry period should be about 2 years; or 5 max.

What's better -- not having a drug at all, or having the drug be very costly for about 14 years and then having cheap generic equivalents?

This is a question designed to deceive, my friend. You know perfectly well that these are not the only two alternatives. I have outlined a couple of others above: make the patents period shorter, require that drugs companies are not for profit etc. There are many other ways; drugs research could be entirely state owned and free of any patents. As it is now, the drug companies look dispropotionately at the problems of the richest people in the world: age related problems (like cancer that mostly affects the elderly) and cosmetic problems. For example, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_diseases [wikipedia.org] for a list of very serious diseases that receive far too little attention despite the fact that they kill people by the million; but of course they are just poor people, so they don't really count - not to an American, that is. Or am I wrong?

Re:fallacious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441368)

"Look at it this way: What's better -- not having a drug at all, or having the drug be very costly for about 14 years and then having cheap generic equivalents?"

What is better ? Treating the symptoms or curing the disease?

Think about that sentence. What is the incentive to cure the disease? In fact the incentive is to create the perseption that you are diseased and treat that ... now how likely is that to happen ?

Giorgis

Apothecary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441732)

Once upon a time there were no pharmacists, instead we had apothecaries and perhaps we were in many ways better off for it. Too often the stuff from the pharmaceuticals ends up bearing a strong resemblance to snake oil.

addendum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17442020)

I made my above comment before reading FinalMidnight's comment [slashdot.org] and having read his comment it occurred to me that my comment might be misread as an insult to all pharmacists instead of some existing corporate structure ( and laws and threats of lawsuits ) that turns many pharmacists into simply licensed order fillers. The closest thing today in the US that comes close to the old apothecary would be what I believe is called a compound pharmacist and is somewhat rare. The true object of my above comment was to indicate that even if large pharmaceuticals were not around a doctor could still send his prescription to the apothecary to be filled as long as they had the required ingredients to make it. Pharmaceuticals essentially put the apothecaries out of business by making sure that doctors prescribed as little as possible of what was in the public domain and manufacturing any such item so cheaply as to make it impractical for the apothecary to do so. However they charged like heck for the patent medicine they heavily influenced doctors to prescribe.

Interestingly enough, from what I have read doctors sometimes even discussed with apothecaries/pharmacists in the past what to prescribe their patients. Which reminds me of a boyhood memory. My mother having always been a bit of an annoying penmanship freak once said something to our doctor about the way he wrote his presciptions out. The doctor replied that it wasn't meant to be readable, it was just to let the pharmacist know he wanted something and the pharmacist would call when he got it and find out what. The pharmacist did use the phone before filling the order and mother never accosted another doctor on his poor penmanship.

Re:fallacious (1)

rkd2110 (992694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441762)

You obviously missed the entire "There are other ways to incite drug/tech/whatever development, than the current patent system" discussion going on around here for the last, oh kazzilion years. You don't have to RTFA, but at least read some of the previous comments.

Saying that the *ONLY* way a company can be motivated to create a new needed drug is to give it absolute, monopolistic power over a life saving/enhancing product, is kind of, well, dumb.

Re:fallacious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441778)

You know nothing. Or at least, nothing of any value. Without patents we would have more and better drugs from competition; drug companies (and there are only two or three of any importance, partly due to the power a patent gives to eliminate competition) waste huge amounts of money and make very slow progress because they have no incentives - they just sit on their patent cash-cows. The profit motive is perverted by the patent system, it is neither created nor harnessed.

Quite often they patent things that aren't even theirs, which is theft in my book.

Re:fallacious (2, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441852)

Large profits give drug companies an incentive to develop the most useful medicines (the more profit, the more useful it is)

You have perfectly summed up why drug companies spend most of their time (and budgets) on fleecing rich people instead of curing poor people.

While you can make the argument that a specific drug X or Y would still be developed in the absence of profit motives, this is overlooking the fact that reduced profits mean a reduced incentive to produce drugs in the future.

Reduced profits is not "no profits" and the incentive of having to compete would in fact be a much greater push to produce new drugs once the artificial protection period of the patent was removed.

Your argument makes the incorrect assumption that drug companies want to cure disease. They do not; quite the reverse, in fact. They can't make money off healthy people.

TWW

Re:fallacious (2, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441978)

"Large profits give drug companies an incentive to develop the most useful medicines"

No. A monopoly give drug companies a large incentive for marketing. And fails to give drug companies appropriate market incentive for efficiency. 80% of pharma revenue is spent on marketing, administration and inefficient production. The R&D is just a necessary evil to obtail the particular monopoly necessary; witness the classic twist-a-molecule game to gain another 20 years monopoly with minimum investment and minimum improvement over current drugs (coincidentally, the particular game that is turned against the pharmaceuticals in this case).

"Look at it this way: What's better -- not having a drug at all, or having the drug be very costly for about 14 years and then having cheap generic equivalent?"

How about this alternative: having _five times_ the current amount of medical R&D and no pharma marketing at no increase in cost, or the same R&D but at a fifth of the cost and no pharma marketing?

Monopolies are a crap way to create any way or form of efficiency. The IP sector is no different from any other sector; protect companies from competition and you get bloated inefficient organizations capable of wasting unlimited amounts of funding and revenue.

Of course you'll see those bloated corporations claiming the monopoly is necessary; for their current level of inefficiency it _is_ necessary. However, that inefficiency itself isnt necessary, and a free market situation would force them to correct it, while leaving us free to more appropriately steer money into R&D.

Pseudo-scientific drivel [was: fallacious] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441992)

Man, am I sick of this pseudo-scientific drivel. Economy. What you earn is a measure of how useful you are to society. Yadda, yadda.

Folks, start to realize that this way of reasoning is just an instrument to make the rich ever richer (personally, no problem with that) and the poor poorer and poorer (and with that I do have a problem.)

Sheesh.

The leeches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441144)

From the article

A spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said that should this prove to be a 'new' medicine, then the same costly and time-consuming safety trials would need to be undergone before the drug could be marketed.

"Even if these are successful, you'd have to invest in commercial development to manufacture, distribute and promote the usage of your drug."

In summary:

We don't care if it is a cheaper more affordable treatment that would benefit all of humanity - we're going to make sure that someone will profit from it and not give a flying f**k about the people who need the treatment.

Re:The leeches (1)

deadlock911 (629647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441394)

I don't think that British guy understands that his country doesn't rule the world (not that "the colonies" know either) It may take rigorous government approval tests to use a drug in his country but in poorer nations the choice is use this drug or die...i doubt they really care about minor side effects. "You cured my life threatening disease but my HAIR HAS FALLEN OUT! Lawsuit incoming!"

Re:The leeches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441590)

Neither is your country.

Big Pharm does this too (5, Interesting)

Heir Of The Mess (939658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441164)

For example Australian company Biota [biota.com.au] created and patented Relenza for treating bird flu, then Roche modified their product slightly to produce and patent Tamiflu.

DO these guys accept Paypal? (3, Interesting)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441288)

'Cause, if they do, I'd like to donate $10 to their research fund.

Good old USA (3, Insightful)

oman_ (147713) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441302)

A thousand bucks says this is never going to pass FDA testing in the United States... and we'll never find out why.

Re:Good old USA (3, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441602)

Which is actually fine as most people in the US can afford to pay for the drug or have the insurance anyway. I don't think that people in Africa are going to care too much that something doesn't have FDA approval if it is actually proven safe and proven effective by people such as WHO or the Red Cross.

This isn't aimed at helping the USA, its aimed at helping the rest of the world.

Re:Good old USA (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441606)

With generic drugs, if the end result of their medicine is chemically the same as a previously approved FDA drug, they get to skip all the expensive human trials & whatnot.

It seriously shortens the approval process & they (generic drug makers) can usually start the approval process before the 'original' drug's patent protection has worn off.

But after reading TFA, it looks like they've changed the chemical structure of the end result, so they may need to go through years of expensive clinical trials before the FDA will approve it.

Medical patents don't spur innovation (1)

LParks (927321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441344)

So, here is proof that money and time was spent researching a useful medication for the good of sick people, regardless of cost of entry and return on investment (financially speaking, at least). So people really can create new ideas without the need to hoard them and profit greatly while excluding others.

Re:Medical patents don't spur innovation (2, Insightful)

BCoates (512464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441506)

Claiming "medical patents spur innovation" isn't the same as claiming that "there would be no research at all without medical patents".

In further news... (3, Funny)

Ritontor (244585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441380)

Hoffman-La Roche and Schering Plough released a statement today. It reads as follows:

"FUCK!"

Slashdot headlines (4, Funny)

urbanradar (1001140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441426)

Looking at the Slashdot frontpage right now, among the stories I see are: "Researchers Work Around Hepatitis Drug Patent", "Wal-Mart Is Pushing Compact Fluorescent Bulbs", "Month of Apple Fixes", "MySQL Falcon Storage Engine Open Sourced", "Creating Prion-Free Cows". Maybe it's just my morning coffee making me optimistic, but it seems to me there's not usually this much positive news on Slashdot! Almost gives you hope for 2007, that does.

Re:Slashdot headlines (1)

Faylone (880739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441948)

Well, damn, NOW I'm scared something really bad is around the corner.

NICE!!!!!! (2, Interesting)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441502)

I've undergone pegaylated interferon treatment twice now... didn't work for me, however did for my brother, and you have to have AWESOME insurance to cover this stuff. I doubt the side effects (which are 11 months of hell) are any different, but if it was cheaper, and for the people who relapse when the drug does keep the virus in check, but comes back, this would be great. After the treatment I felt so good for the couple of months that the viral levels were low... I've been hoping for a prophylactic kind of treatment for a long time... I really hope the pharmco's aren't assholes about something like this.

$1,000 per capsule. (1, Troll)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441510)

Some years back my landlord told me that his dad (who was near 100 years old and living in a nursing home) was on a special medicine that was kept under lock and key and that the he kept the key.
The pills were locked up at the nursing home but he took the only key to the cabinet home with him.
He had to drive up there each day, unlock the cabinet and administer a single pill to his dad under the supervision of the head nurse. Each pill was $1,000 and his dad had to take one every single day of his life or he would die. I don't remember the name of the medication or what it was for but damn, $1,000 per day to stay alive?!! That's insane! Of course it was being covered by insurance as mere mortals couldn't have afforded that much money, the old man had been a big shot at a refinery in his day and had retired with super great benefits and insurance.

I would bet money on it that the pills were really only worth about $10 each at best but the vampire profiteers were sucking the life blood out of every living thing within 2 miles of that nursing home and the old mans insurance company.

I can't imagine in my wildest dreams what you could ever put into one little capsule that would be worth $1,000. Even gold dust isn't worth that much money. Perhaps some diamonds??

One thing that PISSES me off is profiteering drug company vampires.
The greedy things they do should be outlawed.

Re:$1,000 per capsule. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441654)

Diamonds? [halfsigma.com] No, feel free to do further research but diamond prices, like drug prices, are purely a matter of marketing, greed and disrespect for human life.

The Pharmaceutical Industry (1)

vorlich (972710) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441634)

business model does not involve producing medicines to cure illness and disease. It is engaged in the research and development of drugs which will be used to treat acute conditions over a long period that produce vast profits. This is why there has been no development by any Pharmaceutical company of a new anti-bacterial agent. The American Military almost single-handedly worked on strategies to tackle the problem of malaria and the development of the antibiotic pencillin, was conceived as having a strategic advantage during WWII when the very first batch of it was used to treat soldiers with STD's and almost instantly restored them to full battle readiness. The Pharmaceutical industry has a long history of encouraging people to believe that they research cures - the truth is that they do not. A very large part of the industry produces belief-based products such as homeopathy. The barriers constructed through the patenting of medicines creates an artificial market where the cost/benefits and profits are found in the sole ownership of something really essential - such as sildenafil citrate. Compare this to the amount of effort that went into not mentioning the fact that in 1979 two Australian doctors, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall re-discovered(!) the cause and treatment of stomach ulcers was a) the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, and b) low cost generic anti-biotics.

YOu FAIL IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17441714)

Athgo International (1)

Sargeant Slaughter (678631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17441886)

I went to a symposium at UCLA in November, put on by Athgo International (athgo.org). A large part of the conference was focused on IPR and it's relationship to global health problems. While Hep C might be a good thing to fight, it doesn't compare to the ATMs (aids, tuberculosis, malaria) and perhaps the worst is malaria. Because those suffereing from it (in the third world) don't have any money, big pharma doesn't even develop drugs to fight new strains. A million people a year die from malaria (largely in the southern hemisphere), and it is a completely treatable disease.

Then again, there are too many people on this planet. Hmm, maybe thats how the pharmacuetical big-wigs justify it...

Against patents (1)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 7 years ago | (#17442106)

Great argument here - just mention that probably some people will die due to patents and describe the situation with drug patents. Nice one.

See? (4, Interesting)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17442156)

See? Patents do encourage innovation!...by forcing others to work around existing patents. :-P
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