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Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the when-patents-go-wrong dept.

471

theshowmecanuck writes to mention that in a recent study, researchers at the University of Alberta Department of Medicine have shown that an existing small, relatively non-toxic molecule, dichloroacetate (DCA), causes regression in several different cancers. From the article: "But there's a catch: the drug isn't patented, and pharmaceutical companies may not be interested in funding further research if the treatment won't make them a profit. In findings that 'astounded' the researchers, the molecule known as DCA was shown to shrink lung, breast and brain tumors in both animal and human tissue experiments."

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Am I missing something? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652290)

If this *REALLY* works, wouldn't people be willing to pay for it?

If people are willing to pay for it, how come somebody isn't willing to profit from it?

Re:Am I missing something? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652384)

If this really works, anyone who goes through the effort needed to conduct FDA trials and bring the drug to market will immediately face competition from generic drug makers who've invested very little in bringing their product to market. If it were patented, then it would become profitable to spend the money to show that it really does work. Otherwise, the company doing the leg work won't have the leg up on their competition.

Re:Am I missing something? (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652968)

So yeah, there's no financial incentive. So what about in other countries? Will it get developed and tested elsewhere? And if successfully tested, will it become legal in the U.S.?

What we're talking about is the essential blocking of just one path by which a drug gets to patients. Is there only one path? And if there's only one path, *THEN* we have a serious problem where the industry is truly getting in the way of a better existance for humanity.

Re:Am I missing something? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652584)

Re:Am I missing something?

Yes.

It's not that people wouldn't pay; it's that without a patent, there's no protection for the manufacturer. Company A pays for the R&D on the drug, and then they go through years of clinical trials to clear the regulatory agencies. This costs $100mm to $1bln for most drugs. If there's no patent protection, Companies B through H can produce generic equivalents, prove equivalency to the regulators (at a cost of a few 10s of millions), and then undercut company A on price.

In the short run this appears to benefit the consumer. In reality however, Company A is too smart to give a free ride to their competitors. The drug never gets developed and more people die.

Sure, but whom? (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652676)

If it is not patented, then it can be copied and sold by the non-developing company without royalties. Developing company would rather develop drugs that they can patent and make a stinking profit with.

Re:Am I missing something? (4, Insightful)

bfields (66644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652818)

If this *REALLY* works, wouldn't people be willing to pay for it? If people are willing to pay for it, how come somebody isn't willing to profit from it?

We don't *know* for sure yet that it really works. We don't know for sure that it may not have some bizarre side-effect in some patients. Answering those questions to the degree of certainty that will convince the FDA to let any US doctor start prescribing it to patients will take huge amounts of time and money. And once one company has expended that effort, *anyone* can sell the drug--and all the companies that didn't fund the testing will have the advantage that they don't need to set a price that will recoup the investment in testing.

So the market will penalize the company that actually does most of the work needed to bring the product to market. As a result, no company will do that work.

That's the problem that patents on pharmaceuticals are intended to fix, really: they fund the testing required to establish to the government's satisfaction that the drug is safe and effective, by giving a temporary monopoly to a single company, as an incentive for that company to invest in the testing.

We think of patents as existing to reward that "ah-ha" moment of insight that produces an original idea. But often such insights are cheap, and occur to multiple people simultaneously. What we really need the patent monopoly for is to encourage the research required to bring a product to market, whenever that research is something that, once done, any competitor could use for free.

Funny (2)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652300)

I thought the United States had the monopoly on horridly broken patent systems.

Re:Funny (2, Funny)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652344)

Canada is the 51st State.

Re:Funny (2, Funny)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652502)

Ahem. The U.S. is the 11'th through 60'th province.

We haven't figured out what to do with D.C. yet. Maybe give it back to the Indians, since it isn't good for anything anymore. Then they can rename that damn football team.

11th thru 60th provinces have a request (1, Offtopic)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653050)

The provincial president that you guys put in charge here is causing a lot of trouble, starting wars and wrecking the environment. Will you please take him back for re-education, and appoint someone else?

BTW, it is sure good to finally know who is to blame for all the problems around here.

Re:Funny (2, Funny)

jours (663228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652972)

I don't believe we have a monopoly on it yet, but we're working on securing a patent.

Moo (5, Insightful)

Chacham (981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652318)

Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent

Note the word "may".

But because it's not patented or owned by any drug firm, it would be an inexpensive drug to administer. And researchers may have a difficult time finding money for further research.

Speculation.

Dr. Dario Altieri, of the University of Massachusetts, said the drug is exactly what doctors need because it could limit side-effects for patients. But there are "market considerations" that drug companies would have to take into account.

Buesiness fact.

Michelakis remains hopeful he will be able to secure funding for further research.

As anybody would.

"We hope we can attract the interest of universities here in Canada and in the United States," said Michelakis.

Excellent.

--

The only news here is the drug itself and how things are moving along well. Yet, a speculation is reported as the main factor, when there is no supporting information for it. Did they even ask for funding yet? The researchers are taking the market into consideration, and the reporter seems to want to make a big deal out of it.

Even if the pharmaceutical companies do turn it down, and even if they do turn it down on the basis of no profit, it just means that the researches will have to do more presentation to find funding. If there is obvious promise in this (which there's have to be to get a pharmaceutical company to invest loads of cash) some organization, or college, or government grant will help pay for the studies.

Re:Moo (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652414)

Eh, if this is shown effective even in preliminary tests, it can be tweaked by a structural biochemist (move a hydroxyl or sumfin' to make it easier to cross transport barriers or increase potency) and then you can patent it and market it to great praise and profit...

Re:Moo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652432)

If there is obvious promise in this (which there's have to be to get a pharmaceutical company to invest loads of cash) some organization, or college, or government grant will help pay for the studies.

Sure thing buddy, where are we going to get 350 billion dollars for that??!

Re:Moo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652506)

If the drug shows promise then a generic drug manufacturer will produce it at low cost. All a patent gives is a certain perioud of exclusivity to the patent holder so they can recoup the money spent in developing the drug. After the exclusivity period it's a free for all for the other companies to get the drug to market. No company is going to pass up a 'cure' for cancer. Imagine the pr benefit for a company that produces a landmark drug at a loss. You can't get better advertising.

maybe on track (1)

objwiz (166131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652618)

I wonder if the speculation may be more on target than credit is given. If a drug or chemial or w/e doesn't have patent, then the price of it is open to stiff competition since anyone can bring it to market. That means lower margins. Not necessarily a bad thing, until one starts to consider lawsuits. Drug companies get a lot of attention from the lawyers. Since the prospect of lawsuits is high, and the prospect of profit is low, there is not much incentive, imo, to market it. Why risk losing $ over it?

maybe on track-????$$$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652748)

This is were the open source community comes in. With a proven track record going back decades, of funding good ideas in an alturistic manner. This drug will soon be on the market, free to all individuals, countries, and even space aliens.*

*small print. may cause blindness, hearing loss, and shrinkage of testes

Ah man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652642)

If there is obvious promise in this (which there's have to be to get a pharmaceutical company to invest loads of cash) some organization, or college, or government grant will help pay for the studies.

You're funny! After critizing the submission for being speculation (which it is), you then indulge in speculation yourself.

Re:Moo (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652684)

501c3's around cancer research should fund this.

May not matter. (5, Informative)

Irvu (248207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652702)

Even if the companies do turn it down they will get a further crack at it. Courtesy of the Byah-Dole act most publicly funded research (especially drug research) in the U.S. can later be "bought" by private companies who may then claim "intellectual property" on the fruits of the public's labors. It is this law that allows both AZT and Viagra (developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health) to be considered "private" property and for the companies to charge the people who invested in their development for their use.

The practical upshot of this is that if the drug does go to the universities to be developed it would be following the normal track of most medical research. And if any patentability (say on dosage levels) does show up the companies can always buy it then.

Re:May not matter. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652930)

Courtesy of the Byah-Dole act most publicly funded research (especially drug research) in the U.S. can later be "bought" by private companies who may then claim "intellectual property" on the fruits of the public's labors.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. If we reduced the duration of patent protection it would be an entirely reasonable way to recoup the costs of research, and to bring drugs (and other things) into mass production to benefit the public.

Or you know, we can just wait until Brazil makes generics of the drugs, laws be damned, and we can take a vacation trip there for treatment.

Re:Moo (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652830)

Even if the pharmaceutical companies do turn it down, and even if they do turn it down on the basis of no profit, it just means that the researches will have to do more presentation to find funding.

Maybe they should go peddle their wares to the Gates Foundation. =)

Where's the problem? (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652952)

There can be profit without monopoly, and without patents.

Where there is potential profit, there will be investment.

If the cost of creating the drug is lower than the benefit conferred upon those taking the drug, then there is potential profit.

The fact that the drug has been discovered and somehow gone unpatented is simply a windfall for society.

In the words of Denis Leary: "Where's the fucking problem?"

Re:Moo (1)

malfunct (120790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653034)

This seems like exactly the thing we SHOULD be spending federal research grant dollars on. I am sure that the cancer societies in america would be happy to fund something if it is truely as promising as the article states. Once the drug has approval it will be a no brainer for every drug company out there to pick it up as it would be wildy popular and though the price would quickly drop to the marginal cost and there would be no monopoly profits, it is still wise to sell as it is a perfectly good business idea to operate at 0 economic profit.

profit.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652358)

"curing" an ailment isn't anywhere near as profitable as "treating" an ailment...

Generic drug manufacturers (4, Interesting)

panaceaa (205396) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652396)

Wouldn't companies like Barr Labs [yahoo.com] , whose entire business model is to develop drugs that have fallen out of patent protection, be interested in developing a drug that's not patent protected? It could be a major windfall for them since they're able to develop a new drug before existing brands can be established in the space. The only trick I see is that Barr Labs isn't as used to dealing with the Federal Drug Administration for drug approval, so it might take some hiring in key areas of the company. But these don't seem like insurmountable challenges given the potential market size and the business model match with existing out-of-patent drugs.

Re:Generic drug manufacturers (5, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652682)

It's not just their lack of expertise. Getting a drug through level 3 trials is expensive: it takes a lot of (often paid) subjects, and doctors and nurses to spend time with those subjects, and a battery of tests to be done on those subjects. This money is spent over years to ensure that the pill is safe and effective before you have even a single paying patient. Paying the subjects is actually the cheap part.

And there's the possibility that once they've spent all that money, it could fail. Maybe the pill just doesn't work. Maybe there are side effects: look at the way Merck is getting hammered for producing a highly effective pill (Vioxx) that just happened, to, well, kill a few people.

Barr makes their money by letting somebody else pay for all that, and then coming in a few years later and charging a lot less. It's the usual problem: the second pill costs $.49, but the first pill costs $75,000,000.

Re:Generic drug manufacturers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17653208)

As far as I know, there was never a clinical trial that showed a statistically significant difference in mortality for Vioxx and placebo. The safety problem with Vioxx was it causing MIs and cerebrovascular strokes.

Re:Generic drug manufacturers (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652768)

Wouldn't companies like Barr Labs, whose entire business model is to develop drugs that have fallen out of patent protection, be interested in developing a drug that's not patent protected?

Nope.

Manufacturing off-patent generics differs from bringing a new unpatentable product to market in one very key aspect - Off-patent drugs already have FDA approval.

Finding substance-X doesn't cost that much... Pharmaceutical companies have developed techniques for rapidly trying every plausible variant of a given structure in one huge parallel batch. The cost comes from taking those chemicals that show promise, performing clinical trials to show safety and efficacy, getting FDA approval, and then actually marketing the drug.

And highlighting just about the worst aspect of capitalism, the problem here doesn't just come from whether or not a company could take a likely candidate, do all that I mention above, and still turn a profit - The problem comes from the fact that seconds after one company foots the bill for all that, the rest can then start production and undercut the first player. So, rather than making less money than the competition, no one will take that leap.



Some will gloatingly point out that drug patents exist in the first place to address that exact problem. Of course, that completely misses the point that in this case, the patent system has still failed to solve the problem, and if anything, exacerbated it.

Re:Generic drug manufacturers (0)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652902)

While the statement that "pharmaceutical companies may not be interested in funding further research if the treatment won't make them a profit" quite speculative, it does raise other questions. It's a matter of capitalism that if a company can't make a profit by performing some action, they likely won't perform that action. But the premise of that statement exposes a very interesting attribute of the name-brand pharmaceutical industry: they can't compete on even grounds.

We can't argue that drug companies invest an enormous amount on researching and developing new drugs, and patents help them ensure that research costs are (eventually) recovered with some profit. And that the drug companies also spend ridiculous amounts of money on marketing those drugs (that's a topic for another rant). What we have here, though, is a drug that has already gone through a lot of R&D (so those costs are gone), and won't require much marketing (there are LOTS of people out there who would just JUMP on the chance of a cure). The only major cost left is manufacturing. Which is minuscule. All of a sudden, all drug manufacturers are on an even playing field: No license fees, no patents, just the ability to produce lots at low cost and sell it.

If the major drug companies are unwilling to pursue this kind of drug, it means one thing: their manufacturing (and to a lesser extent, marketing) is so inefficient that they can't make a profit without having exclusive rights to produce the drug and the ability to jack up prices with impunity.

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652994)

This is true, if there is no profit in making medicine's that are not patented why would companies be making those medicines?

Many foods are unpatented, yet millions of farmers exist worldwide. And I can walk into a store and buy one.

I had tiramisu at a restaurant, the recipe for it is not patented .. how come restaurants are making it?

Yes yes initial research costs of drugs blah blah. But there's still profits to be made, just that the returns come slowly. For example, if the cure to cancer cost $10 billion to develop, the cure can be sold for $10,000 per pill by the patent owner. But if the pill was not patented, the pill would have to be sold for $1,000 each and the company would still profit but it would take much longer to get back the $1 billion. Since it's a cure not a vaccine people will continue getting cancer, and so they will eventually recover the investment. If it was a cancer vaccine they still will make money because every person in the world will need it and also newborns into the future.

Investing in a company that finds cures make sense because they will make a LOT of money and this money will help them buy assets they can use to make even MORE money off other markets.

Nobody patented quinine (malaria cure) yet it was discovered and it's available cheap.

It's not as if... (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652402)

...Big Pharma would do it for the betterment of all mankind -- no profit in that!

Interesting note: CNN is reporting that Cancer deaths have dropped for the second straight year [cnn.com] .

Re:It's not as if... (2, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652614)

...Big Pharma would do it for the betterment of all mankind -- no profit in that!

Yeah, it really sucked when the patent expired on Aspirin. Now nobody can buy one because businesses can't make money off it.

Memo: Something that flatters your prejudices is not the same as news.

Re:It's not as if... (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652872)

Yeah, it really sucked when the patent expired on Aspirin. Now nobody can buy one because businesses can't make money off it.

Au contrair -- the development of Aspirin (trademarked) by Bayer marked a breakthrough in the treatment of acute pain and was a boon to Bayer, until that is, their competitors found a way to copy the formula and create other versions of "Aspirin." So they were able to wring their profits after it was initially developed; now, it is a generic drug, one that anyone can produce, making it relatively cheap and easy to obtain, though for any major pharmaceutical company producing it, it provides only an insignificant fraction of their profit. Not to mention, aspirin has since been eclipsed by other painkillers, and only in the last two decades has had any major resurgence, due to its blood thinning qualities, helping heart patients avoid future heart attacks.

Re:It's not as if... (1, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653032)

Yeah, it really sucked when the patent expired on Aspirin. Now nobody can buy one because businesses can't make money off it.

That misses the point of the article. If somebody wants to sell this to treat cancer, the FDA is going to require 800 million dollars worth of Phase I, II, and III clinical trials before it allows the claim.

Without the promise of patent protection, nobody is going to drop a billion dollars doing that.

Substitute your own number - if it's greater than the amount likely to be made selling a generic, there's no simple business case for it. There may be some PR business cases for it if the number is low enough.

Re:It's not as if... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652634)

>...Big Pharma would do it for the betterment of all mankind -- no profit in that!

To point out the blatantly obvious, it's not their money to screw around with; it belongs to the owners, i.e. the stockholders.

How you would you feel if you suddenly stopped getting interest from your accounts just because your investment institution decided to give the money to a charitable cause?

A surprise to ANYONE? Blame government/attorneys (1, Insightful)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652826)

Of COURSE no pharma company would spend tens of millions (or more) to conduct clinical trials on a drug they couldn't sell! It's a simple fact of business -- even in the extraordinarily small chance that the drug proves 1) effective and 2) safe, it would have to be sold in sufficient quantity to return a profit. Otherwise, it's a guaranteed loss.

For all those who see something wrong in this (and I'm talking to the Big Pharama Conspiracy crowd here... the same bunch who believes in the 200MPG carburettor stories), perhaps you'd like to cough up some money out of your personal budget to cover the costs and risks of conducting these trials and persuing FDA approval. If all goes well, you could then give away the results for the betterment of mankind. But talk is cheap.

And don't even get me started on liability issues. Just ask John Edwards (former Vice Presidential candidate) how much money is to be had by suing drug companies. There are legions of attorneys standing by waiting to pounce on any perceived harm, no matter how obscure or rare.

Both of these costs discourage drug development such as this one, and force "Big Pharma" to be especially risk adverse.

Blame government and attorneys.

This just in... (3, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652408)

This just in: developing medecines takes work, and work costs resources. Anybody who can think of a better way to provide resources to the people interested in developing medecines, besides patent royalties and the like, please come forward.

And anybody who thinks that people should use their own resources to develop medecines, and then not ask for anything in return when they offer those medecines to the public, are kindly invited to drop whatever they're doing right now, that puts food on the table and a roof over their heads, and devote everything they have to developing medecines for free.

Re:This just in... (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652450)

So if this medecine is so wonderful, and developing medecines for profit is so evil, why doesn't this University start mass-producing this medecine and giving it away for free?

Re:This just in... (2, Informative)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653002)

So if this medecine is so wonderful, and developing medecines for profit is so evil, why doesn't this University start mass-producing this medecine and giving it away for free?

For one, it would be illegal since the thing isn't FDA approved. And what does it take to get FDA approved, you ask? Years of studies and many millions of dollars. See many of the other posts on the topic, I'll not repeat them, but the basic point is that they'd have no hope of recouping their investment simply because tons of other companies would drive the price of the drug through the floor.

Re:This just in... (1, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652544)

This just in: developing medecines takes work, and work costs resources. Anybody who can think of a better way to provide resources to the people interested in developing medecines, besides patent royalties and the like, please come forward.

How about taking the money Big Pharma uses to line the pockets of its CEOs and the egregiously large profits these companies make and putting the bulk of it into research and production? How about diverting resources and money from male impotence drugs, since I suspect far more people have cancer than there are men who can't spank the monkey.

Re:This just in... (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653000)

Who are you to dicate how a free individual uses their resources, or how they spend the wealth their work produces for them?

If it's wrong to spend your time developing Viagra and selling it to misguided middle-aged salarymen, and we should take things away from such people and make them spend their time on cure for cancer instead, then what about you?

You're obviously intelligent and skilled, and yet you're probably not doing anything to help cure cancer, are you? So when can we expect to see you give up your job, quit posting to Slashdot in your leisure time, and join a cancer-cure R&D team at minimum wage? Anything less, and we'll find you guilty of exercising your freedom for your own benefit at the expense of your fellow man, and we'll force you to be a more productive and helpful member of society.

How about socialism? (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652562)

When the free market fails, as in this case, why not let government do it? Most major scientific breakthroughs have come from government funding.

Re:How about socialism? [mod parent up] (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652988)

Doesn't suggesting that make you an evil communist terrorist or something?

Oh dear lord, here come the loonies. (1, Interesting)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653056)

>>When the free market fails, as in this case, why not let government do it? Most major scientific breakthroughs have come from government funding.

That's correct. The free market *HAS* failed -- the government is interfering by their over-regulation. Thank the FDA and trial attorneys for making new drug development so cost-prohibitive.

But that's not what you meant, was it? You seem to have this idea that all good things come from government. "most major scientic breakthroughs"?? It is to laugh.
Well, then, it should be easy for you to provide a list of drug discoveries that came from government funding. But even if you could (and you can't b/c it's not true) that's not due to socialism.
I'm calling your bluff. Go ahead... name a few significant drugs discovered/invented in Socialist countries.
__________
__________
__________

From what I've seen, the West invents the drugs and the Socialist/Communist nations simply copy the work.

Re:Oh dear lord, here come the loonies. (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653122)

The west is socialist! Look at all the tax breaks given to big business. What we have here in the good ol' USA is socialism for the rich. Show me a single drug company that hasn't benefited from federal research grants. That's socialism.

Re:How about socialism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17653110)

Why would the market fail to provide this drug, IF IT WORKS?

Wouldn't you *pay* to get your cancer cured? I bet most people would, and if the cost producing it is not prohibitive, I fail to see why it wouldn't hit the market. After all, there's a profit selling that stuff to people who want it.

Just because you don't have a patent (i.e. mafia-enforced monopoly) on it doesn't mean it's not profitable for some magical reason.

Re:How about socialism? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653120)

When the free market fails, as in this case, why not let government do it? Most major scientific breakthroughs have come from government funding.

A market in which the government enforces time limited monopolies in the form of patents can hardly be called a free market. I think what you mean to say is the heavily regulated and controlled market may or may not be failing in this instance and the government may want to step in and pick up the ball.

Re:How about socialism? (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653206)

Since this breakthrough seems to have come from a university, and most U.S. universities receive government grants, I'm pretty sure that government funding played a part in it.

But given government's track record with responsible use of power, I'd much rather see government in a limited regulatory capacity (like the FAA) or stimulatory capacity (like NASA), putting reasonable bounds on private enterprise or encouraging technological advances in particular areas, than see government in an active manufacturing or commercial capacity.

But yeah, the government should contract this out and give it away... just as soon as they can convince their constituents it's worth the tax increase.

After all, somebody has to get paid to do the work, and that paycheck has to come from somewhere. If the market can't convince people to pay for it, then the government either has to convince people to pay taxes for it, or else conclude that people don't really want it all that much after all.

Re:This just in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652854)

This just in: developing medecines takes work, and work costs resources. Anybody who can think of a better way to provide resources to the people interested in developing medecines, besides patent royalties and the like, please come forward.

*stepping forward* how about regular semi-commodity business models - like the vast majority of actual products? no one has a patent on orange juice or paper towels, and somehow, there manage to be many companies which produce these products profitably.

Re:This just in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17653220)

Call it a hunch, but I believe it's because orange juice and paper towels aren't known for causing problematic side effects.

People take medicine on good faith that, while it should improve their current condition, it must not cause worse problems. But you can go back to taking tartar emetic [bartleby.com] .

How about this (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653038)

They can own the patent on the drug and then sell treatments to the very highest bidder.

The rich get cancer treatments.

The rest drop dead.

Zip yourself back up, dude.

Re:This just in... (1)

matt21811 (830841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653054)

"Anybody who can think of a better way to provide resources to the people interested in developing medecines, besides patent royalties and the like, please come forward."

You talk like there is no alternative to the patent system for encoruaging drug development. Countries with socialised health systems could have an economic incentive to develop this.
 

Open Source It! (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652466)

Instead of running a dangerous open source meth lab people could run a highly profitable open source DCA lab.

Sounds like a regulation problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652474)

Regulations create barriers of entry so high, you have to be a large multi-national corporation just to participate (and they like it that way) and make a profit. And these regulations don't seem to guarantee a safer drug supply than individuals free to make unlimited choices would (despite the laetriles, etc).

If we had an FDA for computers, 2 stoners in a garage would never have been allowed to create our PC revolution.

waiting is the hardest part (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652476)

Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent

Yeah, well, if they continue to hold it up, it may not get a chance due to lack of patients.

Private enterprises won't develop the cure? (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652478)

then public labs should. This is a matter of public health, therefore the state should fund the research. If only because, if this molecule has potential, the taxpayer money they put into the research will be peanuts compared to what health care providers will have to pay for licensed medicines. I.e., for the state, this is a matter of making long-term economies, not even a humanitarian pursuit. But of course, our dear leaders have to be willing to pay a miser upfront to avoid paying billions to pharmaceutical companies 10 or 20 years down the line.

I just don't understand this country anymore: have people completely forgotten we have (or should have) public labs to do the kind of research short-sighted profit-oriented companies won't do? apart for military technologies, it seems society has decided to put its future advances squarely and solely in the hands of the corporate world. This is sad.

Re:Private enterprises won't develop the cure? (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652944)

You seem to forge that this is Slashdot.

Remember, "public" means "government", and "government" is the stupidest there is, unable to do anything at all right. All such intelligence and acumen reside with "business". If only "government" would get out of the way with silly regulations, operating under the principles of the "free market", the profit motive would induce "business" to do the right thing, with the end result that we'd all be better off.

Silly things like effective medications that are inherently low-cost are an aberration, and don't really exist.

Re:Private enterprises won't develop the cure? (2, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653016)

If only because, if this molecule has potential...

As with every "New Miracle Cure For Cancer!" story here (this is, what, the fourth one of the year and we're barely halfway through January), this is something that kills tumors in-vitro, published in a respectable but unremarkable journal and then hyped by an overexcitable univerity PR department. There are literally dozens of results like this every week, virtually all of which go nowhere.

As for the notion that the unwillingness to develop a drug in the absence of patent protection somehow is an argument against patents -- honestly, I can't get my brain down close enough to the level of such idiocy to reason with it.

Re:Private enterprises won't develop the cure? (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653152)

if this molecule has potential, the taxpayer money they put into the research will be peanuts compared to what health care providers will have to pay for licensed medicines.

Unless it turns out that it's not a viable treatment. Then they've spent millions upon millions of dollars, and get nothing out of it.

No problem, of course, since they can raise taxes to cover the loss.

There are other ways... (4, Insightful)

haeger (85819) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652492)

...to make money.

The "big" thing about the Losec medication wasn't really the drug itself, but the way it was delivered to the body iirc. And although AstraZeneca eventually 'lost' the patent (ok, it expired) on the active substance, a lot of other patents regarding the drug delivery were still in place, making them tons of cash.

So I do believe this is just a scare from the pro patent lobby. I'm sure there are a lot of companies working on this right now to see if it's possible to make a useful drug out of it. Even if the drug itself can't be patented there's probably a whole lot to be learned from it, possibly to be used in other drugs that can be patented.

I wouldn't worry. If it does cure cancer, we'll get the drug eventually.

.haeger

Obvious solution (3, Insightful)

jfern (115937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652504)

Government funded research.

A lot of people on Slashdot may disagree with this, but the "free market" is not the solution to everything.

If it didn't cost billions to get FDA approval (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652512)

It wouldn't be an issue, now would it? Who is going to pony up the cash to get FDA approval to let others walk away with the approved drug?

Re:If it didn't cost billions to get FDA approval (2, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652600)

It will get researched, developed and produced in another country. Americans will then fly or drive to this country to purchase and/or use this drug if the damn Yankees ban it.

Re:If it didn't cost billions to get FDA approval (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652866)

Who cares? If your system of government doesn't work to keep you alive, move to one that does! Whats more important your life or your patriation?

Not enough competition in drugs market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652516)

Well if there's no need for drug companies to bring out new drugs, so much so that a potential cancer drug doesn't get studied, then there isn't enough competition in the market.

As a previous study pointed out, the drug companies have been kicking out minor variations of drugs and patenting minor increments without feeling the need to do anything major and that points to a lack of competition in the market, not a need for more patents.

DCA look like an interresting bugger(link inside) (0, Offtopic)

aepervius (535155) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652522)

DCA [nih.gov]

Look also at the following link in variosu treatment.

Please do not mod up at all. I assume everybody will look in google anyway. Hopefully

I did not find what I was searching : negative effect DL50 or DL90...

Go apply for a patent, then (1)

quiberon2 (986274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652526)

If you think it's worth patenting, go apply for one. Just explain what your invention is, what was done before, and hand over the money.

In the US, a patent is rather like the title deeds to a house; someone might well lend you money on the security of it to develop the thing. Or maybe they won't, depending on what they are feeling like that day.

Get out your chemistry set (4, Interesting)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652534)

According to the article dichloroacetate is relatively easy to obtain. "The compound, which is sold both as powder and as a liquid, is widely available at chemistry stores." I'm sure a pharmacist trained in the art of mixing compounds could formulate it to doctor's specs.

If worse comes to worse you raid your old "Super Advance Kiddee Chemistry Set" and dose yourself.

Captain Reality Says: (1)

UPZ (947916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652560)

Harrrrrrrr! Surprise!!

Better, more informative article (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652572)

here [newscientist.com]

-mcgrew (my computer is broken):

What about generics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652610)

If the main pharmacutical companies aren't interested in it because they can't lock in a monopoly and rape the public for billions of dollars, what's to stop the generic drug manufacturers from pursuing it? Since the majority of a drug's cost isn't in the R&D, rather in the marketing, you would think that for a reasonably inexpensive research cost some generic drug manufacturer can really emerge as a white knight if this drug is as effective as the researchers are hoping it will be. There won't be any need for huge marketing costs - the free advertising from a story like this is more than enough to get noticed... and if it is a successful product it will be known by oncologists world wide. There's still money to be made and they don't even have to be "evil" to do it.

Re:What about generics? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653022)

Not true. Any company that wants to bring this to market, even a generic manufacturer, still has to pay the costs of the clinical trial steps. This is part of your R&D costs, and quite an expensive cost as well. Yes, marketing costs are still astronomical (and probably don't have to be, either), but then again, just because something receives lots of exposure in the mainstream media doesn't mean that doctors are paying attention to that. Although if they're patients start asking about a particular drug, they'll do the research and find out if it's good, but doctors don't research these things in the mainstream media; they have much better sources to find out all of the unbiased details and results.

Re:What about generics? (1)

jackelfish (831732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653232)

I am not sure why people tend to label big pharma as "evil" they provide a service and people pay for it. Everyone has to make a living and drug companies will supply what the market can support. If that means that you pay $600 a pill for a new cancer treatment that will let you live another month, then, bankrupting your family aside, that is your choice. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules and that is a discussion best left to people smarter than myself.

Who needs patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652612)

Forget this "intellectual property" nonsense. The researchers should just sell T-shirts and do live shows to make money. That's how most... Oh, wait-

Not sure what the big deal is? (2, Insightful)

jackelfish (831732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652622)

When I checked, Dichloroacetic acid was not a controlled substance of any kind. Therefore if you have cancer and want to give it a whirl, you can just go onto the Sigma-Aldrich website, give them your credit card number and order a bottle. I am sure if it works as well as the researchers believe it does we will have plenty of anecdotal evidence for its usefulness in no time. Also, if it does work, then there is always the public funding sources that also fund actual clinical trials. All drugs do not have to come through Pharma. Soon someone will decide that there is enough money out there to make it worthwhile putting it in a caplet and selling it along side the vitamin C.

"New use" patent? (1)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652638)

Since the drug is not currently being used to treat cancer, can't the use of it to treat cancer be patented? This is a way that drug companies often keep a monopoly on at least part of a drug's utility, IIRC.

Re:"New use" patent? (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653164)

You're forgetting all the other requirements of getting a patent.
Obviousness comes to mind...

Easy solution (2, Funny)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652692)

1. Find a plant, animal, or mineral with it.
2. Market it as a natural supplement.
3. Profit! /yes, I found the mysterious step 2.

Time to Step Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652696)

This is a perfect case for Socialized Medicine to step up. Will The national health systems of socialized countries pay for the research needed to make this work? Or will they whine and complane that the evil American drug companies won't do it for them.

Shareholder Responsibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652760)

These companies have only shareholder responsibilities. That's it.

Re:Shareholder Responsibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652936)

Something has gone terribly wrong if they feel they have no responsibility to the public. In the US the public is supposed to be the government more or less, and corporations are creatures of government decree. There is nothing magical about a corporation, it's governed by laws, and yes, virginia, the government still has the power to take away a corporate charter.

Interesting Take (1)

localman (111171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652828)

I've been down on the current patent situation for a while, but for some reason I'd not looked at it from this angle before. I always figured the biggest problem was that useful inventions were getting locked up for too long by patenting them. But in this case the patents are discouraging valid solutions because the patented options are more profitable. I suppose that this was obvious to some, but I think it's interesting in a subtle way: not only do patents lock up useful creations, they also lock out useful creations. They create a false market for novelty.

All this is assuming that the claims in the story are legit, but it's a worthwhile angle to consider nonetheless.

Cheers.

I wish people would think for 10 minutes (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652834)

about what they are about to submit to slashdot.

1) Even though it is not patent, drug companies would still make million and millions of dollars. Yes they would all be compteting, but even then they would still make millions and millions of dollars.

2) There is no reason that they wouldn't start some sort of group development project, then split the profits.

3) There are companies in other countries who could do this.

Of course, all the deals with reality and not with spouting some personal and illogical point about patents.

Human Race = Sold Out (1)

Quzak (1047922) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652882)

Again we are shown that the Human Race has been sold out. Because we all know that PROFIT is > then all. One day it will cause our extinction.

A race couldnt save itself from its demons because a profit couldnt be turned in the process.

Re:Human Race = Sold Out (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653030)

You don't need a patent to make a profit!
If the cost of making the drug the price patients are willing to pay, then there is profit to be had!

Someone call Wal-Mart. They'll do it.

Cure vs. Treatment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652940)

You have to realize that no company in the business wants a cure, just treatments. There is no profit in cures. If you bring these companies a cure for anything they'll try to kick it under the table so it's never heard from again. Bring them a treatment and amazing things happen. You just have to love how the current western doctor is a legalized drug pusher for all these companies.

Not in the "West" (5, Informative)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652960)

Cuba has a large, thriving and internationally recognized cutting-edge pharmaceutical and biomedical research industry. They specialize in developing and distributing drugs to the 99% of planet Earth that can't afford $5/day to get harder erections. They generally research based on the commonality and severity of particular diseases, and then try to find exceptionally low-cost ways to solve them better. Ironically enough, it's quite profitable since selling tens of millions of pills to entire continents at 1% profit can add up pretty quickly.

Re:Not in the "West" (0, Troll)

jeremycobert (795832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653064)

too bad the Cuban shipping and delivery system is fleet of 1963 ford fairlanes. the words Cuba and cutting edge just don't go together.

mod uP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652964)

SofTware lawyers

The problem is the cost of getting FDA approval (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17652970)

The cost of getting a new drug to market has nothing to do with the development of the drug. It's mostly the cost of getting FDA approval.

The FDA has absolutely no incentive to make the approval process cost-effective, because the assumption is that the costs will be paid by some big pharma company that will make a bundle out of its patent on the drug.

For a drug which is not patentable, why shouldn't the costs of getting FDA approval be borne by the taxpayer?

sell or die (0)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17652980)

Using the well known US legal system, cancer patients will be suing any drug company with a possible cure that is not available because the company cannot make money on it.

Either that or India and China will be putting together production lines, RIGHT NOW, to market a generic version.

Call Wal-Mart (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653068)

You don't need a patent to make a profit.

If the cost of producing the drug is less than the price consumers are willing to pay, then there is profit to be made.

Someone call Wal-Mart. They'll do it.

I've said it before (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653086)

and I'll say it again. Pharmecueticals are about MONEY, first and foremost. And to those in previous threads that have asked me how pharmaceuticals would resist certain potential cures due to more money being in the treatment than in the cure...

Now you have your answer, assholes.

Naturally! (2, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653116)

If they can't protect their market position, they won't make the investment. It has nothing to do with how many people's lives may be extended.

This is how deregulated industries benefit consumers. Ohh wait...

Lame (1)

pathos49 (838882) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653140)

First of all if their is no IP then that will not stop development. Actually, if these scientist would COLLABORATE, they would quickly find that institutions such as Pittsburgh, Harvard, UCLA and MANY OTHERS developing drugs that have fallen off patent or have no IP. Also, the NIH has a large division to do this as well. If the preclinical data is appealling, money WILL come

NOTE TO ALL: THe lion share of all new drugs coming out today are old drugs that are no longer patented and used on off targets. In other words they are the "side reactions" that were ignored the first time around I am currently involved in studies to bring a many decdes old drug out of the closet to be used for liver preservation during transplant.

Lastly as a greek, this scientist is an embarasment. Greeks are usually more clever.

0.o (5, Informative)

Muad'Dib129 (868864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653192)

I am not surprised. I watched my mother in law die of lung cancer a few years ago. Her best (insurance-funded, of course) option was radiation & chemotherapy. A few months ago (July-August), I watched my father go through practically the same thing. Once again, his best (and also insurance-funded) option was radiation & chemotherapy. One bill I saw, that he had to fork out $225 for (co-pay for it being over $20k), was almost $21,000. Why is there not a cure and treatments are our best option? The fat ass American medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry can charge 10K per session to the Insurance Industry, who just plain rips off the American people. It would be such a wonderful irony to see something that isn't patented become a cure...then it would be available to EVERY F*CK*NG PERSON who could throw down a few bucks for the cure, instead of having to rely on the bullshit fat ass Insurance, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries to give us these bullshit treatments that prolong the agony. There would be fierce competition for sales of this cure, therefore making the price of it affordable without the necessity for the Insurance company to intervene.

what about other countries? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17653202)

This may be true in USA and some other countries. But what about other places where there is more social medicine system in place? Maybe a government somewhere would sponsor the research, and eventualy big pharma in USA will pick up the finished product to sell to dieing people here, without having to bother with all that expensive research themselves.
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