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Indonesia Stops Sharing Avian Virus Samples

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the intellectual-property-flu dept.

Biotech 243

dankrabach writes "Indonesia has apparently decided to play the IP game, with the world's health at stake. The country, one of the hardest-hit by avian flu, has stopped submitting virus samples to the World Health Organization, and is negotiating to sell them to an American drug company that makes the vaccine. They feel slighted when they give away such samples, but then cannot afford the patented vaccines. Logical to me, given the rules of the game; however, can't we come up with some GPL'ish license to free any product based on this data?"

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A Solution (0, Flamebait)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937102)

Forbid any American drug company from buying the samples. Problem solved.

Re:A Solution (1, Insightful)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937142)

Land of the free...

Re:A Solution (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937800)

You mean "the land of the fee"

Re:A Solution (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938058)

Land of the free...

To be fair, it was, at least until glass trinkets and flu blankets came along.

Re:A Solution (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937254)

Forbid any American drug company from buying the samples. Problem solved.
That may seem like a simple solution... but it wouldn't work.

American Companies would just form joint 'research' partnerships (or some other shell game) with European/African/Asian/Any company & buy it through that.

Vaccines are problematic, because they're expensive to test, usually expensive to manufacture, and aren't needed year round. Companies don't want to make 'em because they aren't ludicrously profitable like every other patented drug out there.

Compulsory licensing (of the patent) is another option, but it ruffles feathers.

Re:A Solution (1)

JohnnyBigodes (609498) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938128)

Compulsory licensing (of the patent) is another option, but it ruffles feathers.

That was quite the pun there sir, my hat's off to you :)

A Geek Solution (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937494)

"Forbid any American drug company from buying the samples. Problem solved."

I guess this is why geeks aren't called to solve world problems. It isn't an "American" problem, but an economic one. As the other poster pointed out vaccines cost money to develop, and test. A GPL license isn't going to solve that problem. A socialist solution were the entire planet pays for the process might. But then "the world" isn't noted for working together for the common good either.

Re:A Solution (1)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937590)

... then the drug companies decide to move out of the USA...

More restrictions on companies never helps anyone.

Companies don't like rules. They will try to break the rules.
Police will have to enforce the rules.
Said enforcement will mean that companies leave the country or shut down.
Importing goods is expensive for the consumer, and bad for the economy at large.

I haven't taken any economics courses, but this makes sense to me. Any beancounters out there want to correct me?

Re:A Solution (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938382)

What you miss is that frequently Rules exist to protect the public interest. Society has an interest in there being vaccines for diseases. Society has an interest in companies not dumping toxic waste in the water supply. Society has an interest in maintaining competition in the marketplace. All of these things run counter to the interests of Corporations, but I would argue that the interests of society at large trump those of Corporations. If Corporations do not benefit society, why should we let them exist? The Corporate veil, Intellectual property, etc all exist at the mercy and forbearance of Society because we all benefit as a whole, if they cease to provide, there is no reason whatsoever to maintain them.

INDONESIA IS AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY (-1, Flamebait)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937628)

Once again, islamic terrorists try to hold the world to ransom.

Pirates! (4, Funny)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937108)

Looks like we're going to have to wait for the pirates to bring a few hundred million copies over through the airports, wide-open borders, by sea, or other means. Couldn't they have put some DRM into this?

Seriously can't wait to get my copies!

Re:Pirates! (5, Funny)

crayz (1056) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937158)

Just wait until the pharm companies find out you illegaly transferred H5N1 IP to your system, and then made *billions* of copies of it. Your doctor will get a strongly-worded takedown notice, that's for sure

Re:Pirates! (4, Funny)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937942)

Oh, come on. You're just getting lawsuit happy. Those viruses were for *personal use*, he didn't know that he was also allowing others access to copyrighted materials. It must have been an accidental misconfiguration.

Re:Pirates! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937778)

Looks like we're going to have to wait for the pirates to bring a few hundred million copies over through the airports, wide-open borders, by sea, or other means. Couldn't they have put some DRM into this?

Given that the Straights of Malacca [bbc.co.uk] next to Indonesia have the highest rates of real piracy, your comment is particularly funny.

Avian Flu (4, Insightful)

celardore (844933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937132)

I live near where a recent 'outbreak' of Avian Flu has occurred in England. Forgive me for perhaps not seeing the bigger picture, but what's the big deal? regular flu kills more people every winter in the UK alone than Avian Flu has the world over - ever. AFAIK anyway.

Re:Avian Flu (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937198)

We're waiting for the eventual mutation that will allow Avian Flu to spread through the air from person to person. So far it can't do that. So far, to get Avian Flu a person needs to eat or have contact with infected birds. Once it goes airborne, though, you will see Avian Flu killing a lot more people than the regular flu does. We're trying to figure out an effective therapeutic regimen before that happens.

Re:Avian Flu (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937326)

Maybe you're waiting for that. I'm still waiting for my impending SARS death. I was promised that doom scenario first.

Re:Avian Flu (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937470)

I know that you are at least partly being ironic, but South Park said it best about SARS:
"Stanley, listen to me. I have SARS. There's only a ninety-eight percent chance that I will live."

Bird flu currently seems much deadlier, as more than half of the humans infected have died.

Re:Avian Flu (3, Informative)

tjwhaynes (114792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938062)

Bird flu currently seems much deadlier, as more than half of the humans infected have died.

Be careful - I'd think about rewording that to "Bird flu currently seems much deadlier, as more than half of the humans known to be infected have died". We really don't have a good idea of how many people have been infected - we have a biased sample of the worst cases being reported (it doesn't get much worse than being dead).

That's not to say that Avian Flu isn't deadly - it is. It kills a significant fraction of the infected population. I suspect that the mortality rate is closer to 10% than 60% though when it gets exposed to a wider audience. I just hope we have an effective treatment (vaccine or medication) by that point.

Cheers,
Toby Haynes

Re:Avian Flu (1)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938186)

This post is begging for the newfie sars joke:

Newfie goes to the doctor, "Doc, I think I got Sars"

Doc: "G'way bye, you been to China?"

Newfie: "Nope"

Doc: "Been to Trawnna"

Newfie: "nope"

Doc: Well why do you tink you got sars?"

Newfie: "Well, I went out drinkin last night, got real drunk and fell down the stairs.. now me backs sar, me legs sar and me arms sar!"

Re:Avian Flu (1)

Howserx (955320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938318)

Doom forever domes out first, then all other doom scenarios.

Re:Avian Flu (1)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938306)

So far, to get Avian Flu a person needs to eat or have contact with infected birds. Once it goes airborne, though, you will see Avian Flu killing a lot more people than the regular flu does.

This is somewhat correct. It has not become an airborne contagion yet, but it won't necessarily become one either. That's just a roll of the dice. It requires a mutation to become airborne. Furthermore, you're assuming that the airborne version will be deadly. It probably would be pretty deadly (though likely, and very hopefully, less deadly than the non-airborne counterpart), but could possibly become even less deadly than regular flu. It all depends on how the mutations happen.

I don't mean to imply it's not a huge threat. It is. Even if the airborne version turns out to be half as lethal as the non-airborne version, we're still looking at anywhere from tens of millions to over a hundred million dead.

The fact is, H5N1 is kind of a blessing in disguise, because it's getting us prepared for a flu pandemic which we were previously completely unprepared for. Flu pandemics aren't a matter of "if". They're a matter of "when". There were 3 in the last century alone, so even if H5N1 doesn't go airborne, another will, eventually, and the better prepared we are, the better off everyone is.

60% Death Rate is the Big Deal (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937264)

I live near where a recent 'outbreak' of Avian Flu has occurred in England. Forgive me for perhaps not seeing the bigger picture, but what's the big deal? regular flu kills more people every winter in the UK alone than Avian Flu has the world over - ever. AFAIK anyway.
I think that Wikipedia might [wikipedia.org] have a good answer on this:

In almost all cases, those infected with H5N1 had extensive physical contact with infected birds. Still, around 60% of humans known to have been infected with the current Asian strain of HPAI A(H5N1) have died from it, and H5N1 may mutate or reassort into a strain capable of efficient human-to-human transmission. In 2003, world-renowned virologist Robert Webster published an article titled "The world is teetering on the edge of a pandemic that could kill a large fraction of the human population" in American Scientist. He called for adequate resources to fight what he sees as a major world threat to possibly billions of lives. So, as far as I know, the 'outbreak' you speak of must have been from people exposed to birds directly. Now, you might point out that that outbreak was quite small and few people died. But a 60% death rate is nothing to sneeze at (no pun intended). As the above paragraph points out, should this mutate to a strain of flu that is easily transmitted between human hosts (like some of the normal flu strains), the death rate would probably still remain at 60% or be even higher if medical resources are stretched thin.

I believe that's the "big deal," the fear of a mutation that isn't such a far flung idea considering other strains of influenza.

Re:Avian Flu (4, Funny)

Sneftel (15416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937362)

The penguin lobby is pretty powerful here.

Re:Avian Flu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937410)

The big deal is that we know that a flu pandemic will occur. We just don't know when.
When it does occur, millions worldwide will die. As the H5N1 strain of avian flu represents some commonalities with earlier deadly viruses (the 1918 Spanish Flu), it makes sense to be concerned about this spreading strain.

All that needs to happen is for the current H5N1 strain to become humanised, allowing easy human-to-human transmission. If that happens, you can say goodbye to quite a few people on this planet (wikipedia just told me that about 50-100 million people died from the 1918 flu pandemic. Compare that to the hundred thousand or so who die every year from "regular" flu worldwide).

And humanisation of the virus occurs more easily when humans and birds are in close proximity, and the birds remain infected, as it allows for more chances of successful cross-species infection.

So, that's why people are concerned. Scientists want to be able to track viral mutations and the epidemiology and geographical changes, because it may help for things like vaccine preparation, determining future epidemic scenarios etc.

To repeat - everyone knows that another epidemic is going to happen. We just don't know when, and everyone is trying to minimise the effects when it does occur.
(It will almost certainly happen within your lifetime though, and is very likely to occur within the next decade from this particular strain).

Re:Avian Flu (1)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937496)

You're obviously not thinking of the Children and Elderly and the Poor who will surely die a horrible, painful, useless death due to this strain of Flu.

The media ran out of missing attractive white women and immigrant children and you can only cover so many mountain climber deaths per year.

Re:Avian Flu (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938138)

that's because most of us Americans are fat lazy bastards who look at a mountain and say "I'll drive around it, thx."
kinda limits your dead climber pool.
-nB

Re:Avian Flu (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937510)

Imagine if we had little or no natural immunity to the regular flu. Making a big deal out of containing it before it kills large numbers of people is fine with me.

Re:Avian Flu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937718)

Let's see if I understand the reasoning here: nuclear war is no threat to the world because more people have died from conventional weapons, by far!

Or maybe this: global warming is no threat to the planet because far more people have died from regular weather patterns than from global warming!

I think I get it.

Re:Avian Flu (2, Informative)

NSIM (953498) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937890)

I live near where a recent 'outbreak' of Avian Flu has occurred in England. Forgive me for perhaps not seeing the bigger picture, but what's the big deal? regular flu kills more people every winter in the UK alone than Avian Flu has the world over - ever. AFAIK anyway.

To understand the concern around H5N1 you need to consider two things:
1. Mortality rate - H5N1 has a very high mortality rate, something like 60% of the people who get it, die! Regular flu has a mortality rate much much lower (several orders of magnitude) so H5N1 is potentially very dangerous.
2. Transmissability - so far H5N1 has proved rather hard to catch (thankfully) but if that changes (something that has happened with other flu viruses) then you have the perfect storm of easy infection combined with high mortality.
For an idea of how bad a Flu epidemic can get, try typing "flu 1919" into Google, that epidemic is believed to have killed as many as 60 million worldwide. Today such an outbreak would probably be worse because it would be spread more quickly around the globe, would have many more densely packed cities to infect and a large (certainly in Africa) group of immune-compromised potential victims because of HIV.

Re:Avian Flu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17938212)

It's difficult to make predictions like that, especially now that we have modern medicine and sanitation.

Am I the only one that thought (1)

TheAxeMaster (762000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938210)

"Damn people's lives, there's a profit to be made!" or "That sure is a nice group of citizens you've got there, it'd be a shame if something happened to them..."
 
I guess indonesia didn't realize that "we'll give you these samples if we get a good discount on the vaccines" sounds a ton better PR-wise...

Re:Avian Flu (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938262)

look up "Spanish flu". with the recent study of the virus, it is currently suspected that it was an avian flu that mutated and became human-to-human transmissible. and also, it didn't originate in Spain. it came from east Asia, most likely China.

spanish flu killed about 50 to 100 million people back in 1918. imagine how many it would kill with modern transportation allowing to to spread much further and faster.

Option 2 (2, Funny)

Dorsai65 (804760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937136)

Maybe make pricing inversely proportional to the number of samples provided?

Awesome. (1)

m0rph3us0 (549631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937144)

There is a shared cost for having this data and not giving it away for free ensures that they will have money to buy the vaccine that came from their efforts to collect the samples.
This is the right thing for 3rd world countries to do. Charge for the services they provide and compete in the marketplace rather than lining up for the soup kitchen.

Fight Fire With Fire... (0, Troll)

w33t (978574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937160)

This makes sense, though dismal that sense be. Holding human lives as so much merchandise, certainly it's nothing new - but that doesn't make is any less reprehensible.

Fight fire with fire, the old adage goes. Though sometimes I wonder why fire can't be fought with water instead.

Why fire can't be fought with water (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937662)

A large (such as a forest) fire will vaporize water before it ever gets near the fire, making water useless. A liquid fire (such as oil or gasoline) will simply float on top of the water, resulting in a larger fire - making water worse than useless. I suggest fighting fire with vacuum, or if that isn't feasable fight it with co2.

2 words for Indonesia: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937714)

Tsunami Relief.

Maybe next time we should charge them *before* sending any help? That's the kind of price for life they want to pay?

I think not!

Re:2 words for Indonesia: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937872)

I think not!
Obviously.

Alternate first sentence (5, Insightful)

arkham6 (24514) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937166)

Instead of "Indonesia has apparently decided to play the IP game, with the world's health at stake.", you could easily say "American Drug company decided to play the IP game, with Indonesia's health at stake."

I'd be pissed too if i was indonesia.

Re:Alternate first sentence (1)

spydum (828400) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937338)

I don't see how American Drug companies are playing IP games. TFA clearly states the drug company in negotiations (Baxter) did not require Indonesia to stop submitting samples to the WHO.

Re:Alternate first sentence (5, Insightful)

Rufty (37223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937432)

Indonesia does the grunt-work of collecting the samples, for free. The drug companies, Baxter et al., charge for the "IP" of the drugs made based from these samples. Not just the drugs, the IP that Indonesia helped gather. At the very least this warrents some share of the IP, say, gratis licences to manufacture the drugs so researched.

Re:Alternate first sentence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937356)

Instead of "Indonesia has apparently decided to play the IP game, with the world's health at stake.", you could easily say "American Drug company decided to play the IP game, with Indonesia's health at stake."

I'd be pissed too if i was indonesia.


If Indonesia does this, then it's highly likely Indonesia won't get a vaccine at any price.

Not the smartest move, IMHO. The world's big drug companies have lots of other diseases to work on.

obligatory wargames quote (0, Offtopic)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937368)

The only way to win is not to play.

Re:obligatory wargames quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17938174)

Yes, so get your hand off your cock.

Re:Alternate first sentence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937416)

I'd be pissed too if i was indonesia.

There is no vaccine, from an "American Drug company" or anyone else. The whole "We can't afford the vaccine!" thing is hypothetical. They're just trying to make a little income themselves, which isn't wholly unresonable.

Anyway, it's a moot point since the submitter and whoever else is involved in "we" are planning to drop a few hundred million dollars on making a "GPL-ish" vaccine. Good luck, guys!

Re:Alternate first sentence (0, Troll)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937652)

I'd be pissed too if i was indonesia.

Pissed about what? That Indonesian scientists couldn't find a cure? That a lot of people don't work for free? That the people who do work for free (or for charitable causes) didn't succeed?

I'd be unhappy in their case too, but who's really to blame? "No good deed goes unpunished", they say.

Re:Alternate first sentence (1)

Zonekeeper (458060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937962)

Given that Indonesia couldn't invent a vaccine to save their lives (literally), you cannot compare the two.

(Well, you can, but you'd look pretty stupid...oh, wait...)

Gambling with too many lives (0, Flamebait)

bostons1337 (1025584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937174)

Cant' we just get them from some other country that was hit by the bird flu? F*** them for doing that with billions of lives on the line!

A GPL'ed Virus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937176)

I didn't think I would ever hear that on slashdot. I think that the drug companies should be forced to negotiate with them, maybe giving patent rights to the providers. Who knows have fun lawyers.

Damn Straight! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937200)

Sorry but the pharmaceutical companies should be sending them the drugs for free.

I agree with them, why give some company everything they need to make record breaking profits just so you cant get the benefit from the help you gave them??

I have an idea! why don't all of you write some great stories for Sc-FI channel to make into movies and they can charge you $29.95 to watch them.

Capitalism at its best (1, Insightful)

null etc. (524767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937212)

Simple solution. Wait until 75% of earth's population dies when H5N1 mutates into human-spreadable form, and then the rich and all powerful shareholders of major corporations (such as pharmas) will have the backs of no peons on which to step.

Next Time (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937262)

The international community will just have to turn their collective backs the next time there's an earthquake in the region.

Re:Next Time (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937334)

I think you meant to say "America will [...]".

To be honest, I'd find it hilarious if America got devastated by bird flu because of its own greed.

Re:Next Time (1)

madseal (916186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937446)

America != Baxter Healthcare

Saying otherwise is just silly...

Re:Next Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17938144)

Just as I would find it hilarious if your entire family except you were wiped by bird flu because you're an asshole.

Sounds kinda stupid huh? Think before you post.

I don't know if the GPL comment was a joke, (1)

Peter Trepan (572016) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937276)

but it would only be beneficial to put a viral license (as it were) on this information if hobbyists and volunteers had the same drug synthesizing and gene sequencing abilities as major pharma/bio companies. However, after a few more generations of Moore's Law, maybe hobbyists and volunteers could do drug synthesis and gene sequencing completely in a virtual environment? Then, a GPL license would make sense.

Caveat: I hate to sound like a G. W. Republican, but such software would also make it easy to design bioweapons. Something to think about.

Re:I don't know if the GPL comment was a joke, (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938358)

but such software would also make it easy to design bioweapons.

and it would also make it easy to develop cures for said bioweapons.

No net change (2, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937324)

Considering the amounts of money involved, I suspect the only thing that is going to change is that American drug companies will send their own people into the field in Indonesia to collect their own samples.

Re:No net change (1)

sapgau (413511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938418)

You are implying that the government of Indonesia would allow that.
Funny how we think we can go to developing countries and do as we please.
But we couldn't think of it the other way. Do you know how hard it is to get a US visa?

But, but, but the free market will fix everything! (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937330)

What are you, some kind of commie, pinko, free-market hating anti-American scumbags? This is the free market we're talking about, it's power is Divine and it can do no wrong. Sharing things is bad, we should be charging for everything. I mean, if these Avian Virus samples aren't privately owned, we might be facing the dreaded Tragedy of the Commons here! Sharing of scientific data is socialism, plain and simple, and it goes against everything America stands for: profit at the expense of all else.

Seriously, though, I wonder how long it wil be before some misguided Libertarian offers up a serious excuse as to why this is a good thing. I can't wait, it's been a while since I've seen a good contortionist show.

Re:But, but, but the free market will fix everythi (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937548)

"Free market" and "patent" are mutually exclusive.

But, but, but the strawmen will fix everything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937774)

"Seriously, though, I wonder how long it wil be before some misguided Libertarian offers up a serious excuse as to why this is a good thing. I can't wait, it's been a while since I've seen a good contortionist show."

Considering that most here haven't read the article, and everything at this point is pretty much talk. There's really no argument to be made for any position. But that's not going to stop the strawman birgade from being modded informative/insightful.

Re:But, but, but the free market will fix everythi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937954)

I'd say the libertarians ought to be the first ones to oppose this, since any artificial monopolies such as copyrights and patents are obstacles to a free market.

They just nationalized their blood supply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17938024)

These guys pulled a Hugo Chavez with their citizen's blood. From a libertarian perspective, this is awful, but this libertarian can understand.

Under the current system, Indonesia gives the WHO samples for free, and all they see in response is patented vaccines that their poor country cannot afford. They see a tragedy of the commons where their people's blood is the commons being exploited by the profit making west. Given that the western world is not about to nationalize pharma and provide yummy treats to the world's poor, they are choosing to monetize a natural resource they have. In response they will get funds that they could choose to use wisely, and most importantly rights to produce cheap vaccines for their own people. This should be something liberals should cheer. Libertarians would probably not like it, but it is a rational response to current market conditions by Indonesia.

Re:But, but, but the free market will fix everythi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17938074)

Nice try, but what we have in the US (let alone anywhere else in the world today) can hardly be called "free market". FYI, free market economics is founded on the principle of voluntary association, which requires a lack of political power (coercion) and influence over what would otherwise be voluntary trade.

The more government, the less free the market is.

Look around: the US government is now the most expensive, most powerful government that has ever existed in the history of organized coercion. Trying to label it a "free market" is bordering on laughable, and only demonstrates your misunderstanding of the concept of free market economics.

A better term for what we have in the US would be "corporatism" (rather than capitalism, which implies actual free trade).

Re:But, but, but the free market will fix everythi (1)

Kattspya (994189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938248)

Try Sweden, Soviet, Cuba, Norway, France, Belorussia and so on and so forth. There are lots of countries with larger governments.

If you meant that the current government in the US is larger than it has ever been before then you are correct.

No money? No reason. (4, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938402)

A vaccine is hard to make.
A vaccine is expensive to make.

If there's no profit, there's no incentive.
If there's no funding, there's no resources.

Tragic, but you don't want to do the work - no matter how helpful - if it doesn't put food on your table and a movie on your TV.
Sure you can volunteer a bit, but only if it doesn't harm your personal bottom line.

What are YOU doing to prepare the Avian Flu vaccine? Thought so.
In the long-shot chance you _are_ working on an Avian Flu vaccine, are you doing it for free? Thought so.

Yes, it makes sense for drug companies to charge a fortune for the Avian Flu vaccine - it will cost them a fortune to create it.
Yes, it makes sense for Indonesia to make arrangements to assure they get the vaccine (either thru barter or billing).
Yes, it sounds perverse to sell the disease to buy the cure.
Welcome to the real world.
You don't cure a pandemic for free.

You got a better idea?

I've got an idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937352)

Why don't all of you who are moaning that drugs should be given for free for such things pool all your cash together and buy into a big drug company, get onto their board of directors and start making these changes from within.

Oh, sorry, I forgot that would mean that you'd have to invest and you'd have to risk your own wealth. Not too bright of a prospect when your own cash (and the shirt on your own back) is on the line is it?

For the most part the people who whine and moan about companies making big bucks are the last one to put their money where their mouth is to make a change.

It's an open market, friends, you have as much a right to buy into it and reap the rewards from it as anyone else. This same ability to amass wealth from this system would also give you the opportunity to make changes in what all too many of you consider a corrupt system.

If you do this do me one little favor: Print out your postings about this and keep them framed on your wall along side of your stocks in the newly founded open source bio-chemistry union. It'll be a hoot to go back and read these when either your company is going belly up or you find that you're just as greedy as the rest when it comes right down to it.

When viruses are outlawed... (4, Funny)

mblase (200735) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937386)

...only outlaws will have viruses.

Hey, I actually like the sound of that.

Re:When viruses are outlawed... (2, Funny)

wildwood (153376) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938394)

Sure, you like it now... but wait until you're locked up for sneezing.

Sad... (1)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937402)

that they have to resort to this, but I can understand their frustration. On the other hand, should a real outbreak ever occur, they are the ones most likely to rely on major international support, and under current forecasts, an outbreak is most likely to occur in the asian arena anyway. i wonder if they would have tried to "sell" the scientific data on the earthquake/tsunami (not that those weren't detectable from far away, but it's a conceptual exercise) that hit them the hardest...or "sell" the geophysical data on the terrain to those who wish to observe from satellites. of course, then their pride should certainly forbid them from accepting any humanitarian help after the tsunami. if they hold this virus data back, sadly, they made the worse for wear if an outbreak does occur.

A touchy problem, that... (2, Interesting)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937406)

I can really see why they feel slighted - after all, collection of samples for the WHO is not a process without its costs and hazards. It's not like they're collecting bread mold or something.

Perhaps approaching the WHO looking for some form of compensation for sample collection could be attempted. Perhaps it already has been. But anyone who has dealt with a global scale NGO, especially a UN agency, knows that the bureaucracy involved makes even the most overburdened of national government bureaucracies look like a model of efficiency.

Still, though, I have to wonder about the claims that Indonesia [cia.gov] cannot afford to purchase the vaccines. Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in the world, and seems more than able to afford many of the trappings of a modern industrialized nation. Their GDP is close to a trillion dollars US. Is it possible that a certain amount of their stand on this issue is posturing? Or to the benefit of one particular agency or department of their government? Follow the money to its destination and more would begin to be clear.

Re:A touchy problem, that... (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938078)

I can really see why they feel slighted - after all, collection of samples for the WHO is not a process without its costs and hazards. It's not like they're collecting bread mold or something.

What are you talking about? Collecting samples for the Who is a bargain, the best they've ever had!

Dumb Question..... (1)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937426)

.... While I understand that viruses can mutate, is there anything special or unique about the strains in Indonesia that makes them (potentially) valuable?

Re:Dumb Question..... (1)

entgod (998805) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937558)

They were one of the countries hit hardest by the flu. That means they have a lot of it and it would be probable that it would also mutate fast in Indonesia.

I agree with Indonisia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937428)

And in my personal life I stopped giving blood and am not an organ donor for the same reasons - why should any company profit from my DNA?

At least with the RIAA, if I write a song that 'becomes useful' I'll see a payment, unlike the bio-tech firms.

How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937452)

How about they develop their own damn vaccines?

At First Blush... (1)

SixFactor (1052912) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937480)

...the title and blurb make it seem like Indonesia is doing an evil thing (government + IP + $ + big pharma = EVIL!!!!)

But from TFA:

"A Baxter [the pharma company involved] spokeswoman said the company had not asked Indonesia to stop cooperating with the W.H.O. She added that the agreement under negotiation would not give it exclusive access to Indonesian strains."

So there is no dark conspiracy between Indonesia and Baxter. Indonesia would like some compensation for the samples they provide, which is understandable. The W.H.O will not be left out.

Poor countries should give resources for free? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937520)

I'm also sick of paying for their coal, oil, diamonds, and other natural resources and cheap labor. Indonesia should just give to the developed world for free. We have earned our empire and their tribute.

For good or for bad, Indonesia is a big producer of new strains of avian flu in humans. Their government wants to turn that into something they can exploit for profit or a lever to get the resultant vaccines for cheap for their poor country.

It seems odd that we're getting a liberal argument for a poor country to give these samples for free to pharmaceutical companies of the developed world to make a buck. I have no problem with the pharmas trying to make a buck or Indonesia exploiting their new industry of incubating new strains of avain flu for us to harvest.

Re:Poor countries should give resources for free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17938196)

I love how you say "make a buck", as if the pharmas are kids on the street selling lemonade.

Compare and contrast (5, Interesting)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937522)

From the summary:

They feel slighted when they give away such samples, but then cannot afford the patented vaccines.

And the Shah of Iran in 1973, just before the oil crisis:

"Of course [the world price of oil] is going to rise," the Shah told the New York Times in 1973. "Certainly! And how...; You [Western nations] increased the price of wheat you sell us by 300%, and the same for sugar and cement...; You buy our crude oil and sell it back to us, redefined as petrochemicals, at a hundred times the price you've paid to us...; It's only fair that, from now on, you should pay more for oil. Let's say ten times more."

No real point. Just found the similarities interesting.

Drug companies don't have enough money (1)

dbdunn23 (1061588) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937544)

When the drug companies stop sticking it to the world, they can gripe about having to pay for samples.

Penguins (1)

bricko (1052210) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937570)

But just wait till it starts killing off the PENGUINS and it migrates to dark closeted geeks and no one finds them for months. Sort of like the skeleton found in the Texas Aggie library with a medal around its neck with the moniker..."Hide 'n Seek Champ 1948"

Incomplete vaccines? (1)

Hsensei (1055922) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937592)

Drug company A buys strains X and Y drug company B buys strain X, Y and gets a exclusive rights to strain Z. This can only end badly for everyone.

Compensation for damage ??? (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937642)

What about damage inflicted by "incarnations" of IP that one claims to own?

CC.

Is it real? (1)

rabbit78 (822735) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937758)

I still find it hard to believe that the avian flu is a real problem. They make a mega big fuzz about it as it would be the worst epidemic ever. There are at least two issues that make me suspicious: When it was announced here in germany, there was only one (big) pharmaceutical corporation that was selling the 'magic cure', and the governments seem to have ordered shitloads of it. The other suspicous detail was that all the farmers were forbidden to let their chickens run in the outside. So far it very much looks like (at least to me):
  • Targetted manipulation to sell (lots of) dubious medicine.
  • A way to clean up the fowls (is that the right word?) market.
I'm not at all for quick conspiracy theories. But until now, nothing convinced me that avian flu is a real problem.

Re:Is it real? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938426)

Avian flu is a real risk, and when it mutates to be trasfered from human to human there is a eral chance that it will kill millions of people.
Even if it isn't any more deadly then previous flu's, not having people vaccinated against this strain will kill many people.

It may be trus that a pharm company in germany used the avian flu as a marketing tool, but those are two different things.

Warning people about what may happen is a tricky thing. I would rather the CDC/WHO errored on the side of caution.

If you read the reposts, we are at the last stage before wide spread infection. So there timing was pretty good, and it was slowed by all the precaustions taken because of those warnings.

It's like the Y2K bug. People are like "There wasn't a problem, we did all that work for nothing!" When in fact it was a big problem, it just got fixed in time..mostly.

No. (2, Informative)

Pendersempai (625351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937828)

From the summary:

however, can't we come up with some GPL-ish license to free any product based on this data?

I doubt it. The GPL works because individual programmers receive some sort of personal, non-monetary benefit from contributing to a GPL project -- the reputation, the joy of coding, etc. No similar incentive exists for drug companies to engage in costly research without the proceeds that come from patents. The GPL also works because for-profit players have an incentive to give back their own coding: so that it can be incorporated into the code tree and not require them to reimplement it every time a new version comes out. Again, there is no analogous market force to compel drug companies to give back changes, or even to make the changes in the first place. Finally, the GPL is largely enforceable because it is usually very straightforward to ascertain whether GPL'ed code is in fact being used in violation of the GPL: the software company cannot destroy the evidence or allow it to decay because they need to keep the source code to continue development. I imagine that it is not so easy to determine whether a particular medical advance was inspired by pseudo-GPL'ed samples.

It seems to me that that country's approach is fair and effective. Alternatively they might consider contractually binding recipients of their samples to offer them the resulting patented medication at cost.

needstag: "haha" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17937926)

Standard capitalism, right back at you.

As an american (and capitalist) (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937946)

This seems completely fair.

Big Businesses (not just american) basically rip off ignorant people and take advantage of them to make outsized profits.

We are under a transition where a lot of third world countries are becoming aware of the way they have been abused and want to charge a fair price based on the fact that they must pay for the vaccine, or pay for the "tires" made from their oil, or pay for the computer made from their copper, etc.

Socialists would say some magical government entity would balance this out but the problem is that
1) the government is not going to correctly allocate the multiple billions of dollars to set up the factories that make the vaccines, make the computer chips (what are these like a hundred billion now?), etc.
2) politics are going to warp the processes horribly.
3) bureaucrats are going to slow the process horribly.

Capitalism is harsh but relatively more efficient than socialist/government run production. It has enormous waste and the executive class is currently looting from us but that will probably be fixed in the next 8 to 12 years.

We do need to realize that the cost for every vaccine will go up because of this- but it's fair as long as we are selling vaccines to people providing the samples.

Free drugs - doubtful (3, Insightful)

Bastian (66383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17937976)

can't we come up with some GPL'ish license to free any product based on this data?"


No. Drug companies don't play games like this. None will sink money into developing a vaccine based on a virus sample if they cannot be granted exclusive rights to produce that vaccine for a period of time. They'll go spend their R&D dollars on fighting developing some other drug that they can use to rake in big stinking piles of cash instead.

That's the way capitalism works - when people decide what to invest in, they rarely look at putting money behind something that they realize is not likely to give them a large return out of the goodness of their hearts. They figure out what's going to make them the most money. The market is not known for rewarding altruism. As a result, any drug company that wants to continue to exist as a drug company is going to do very little in the way of charity research, and instead do the kind of stuff that attracts capital.

The only way we're going to get drug research without patent protection is to start some sort of government agency whose primary purpose is to do this stuff. But good luck getting that to happen (in the US, anyway) voters don't have a history of being in favor of things like this, and the drug industry would viciously lobby against any sort of government-sponsored competitor.

Just the opposite (1)

Tony (765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938350)

The market is not known for rewarding altruism.

Exactly. In fact, it's exactly the opposite: capitalism rewards those who are the most greedy, who are willing to fuck others over for their own gain, and those who are able to manipulate the environment in which things are produced, purchased, and sold.

Just because it appears to be the fairest workable economic system at this time doesn't mean it's good, or even really fair. And it doesn't mean that others can't game the system to their advantage (which is true of every known economic system).

When lives are at stake due to lighted panels flipping you off as hard as they can, an entire city shuts down for a day. When lives are at stake because of evil, greedy fucks who run big corporations, people yawn, and say that's the way it should be.

Call me a cynic, but I really don't like people. We deserve a pandemic. We deserve ecological devastation (drought, famine, pestilence, that sort of thing). As long as our own greed allows us to fuck over other people, we deserve what we get.

Just what we need... (2, Insightful)

moracity (925736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938052)

ANOTHER license. I'm so sick of hearing about licensing.

I know everyone is going to side with Indonesia...in fact, I think they should do what they need to do in order to secure their own access to medicines derived from the samples they give. However, if it were the U.S holding virus samples hostage for its own benefit, people would be calling for blood.

Another perfect example of hypocrisy. People want everything equal until someone or something they don't like gets to exercise the same equality.

Capitalism (3, Insightful)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938070)

If drug companies cannot patent a sell a cure for hundreds a dose (see for example the current controversial HPV vaccine) they will not develop the cure. They are far too busy working on penis pills to work about something that will kill 60% of the world population anyway.

That's the rule, that's what corporations do, that's America! If they don't they very quickly get thrown out by the shareholders and replaced by those that understand this rule. Why are people shocked?

Nobody in their right mind expects Indonesians will be able to afford the vaccine, they will die en mass. This is why we have universities and the WHO, where scientists who haven't crossed over to the dark side develop cures for things.

If you GPL drugs, what happens when deaths occur? (1)

olddoc (152678) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938086)

If Windows or Suse or Ubuntu has an error and causes me a problem, I have no financial recourse.
In America if a drug causes a problem, the lawyers are ready to collect.
Can you imagine a GPLd vaccine that sells for $5 cost of production that causes 1 death per 5,000 doses. This may not get picked up in testing, but it might cause 1000 deaths before it gets recalled. If Merck sold the vaccine for $50, each family would get $1,000,000 and Merck would be out $1Billion. If it was a GPL $5 vaccine.......

We need a majpr population reduction anyway (2, Interesting)

Electric Eye (5518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938118)

Playing devil's advocate, I think a bird flu pandemic is exactly what this planet needs right now. We've added a billion people and welcomed two billion+ populated nations to the industrialized world and we're destroying most of our natural resources. I think a pandemic that could potentially reduce this burden, especially in SE Asia where those countries seem hell bent on destroying the environment in just about every way. Call me sick, but I don't have faith in humanity to reel itself in when it comes to development and consuming more and more in the future. The only solution is fewer consumers.

Waitaminute. (4, Insightful)

Garridan (597129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938200)

They feel slighted when they give away such samples, but then cannot afford the patented vaccines.
How is this Indonesia being evil? They've gotten tired of getting fucked in the face by greedy american pharm companies. It's like, "Hey! Give us some virus, and we'll make a cure!". "Here's the cure! Oh... you can't afford it? Well, sorry all your people are dying. BTW, do you have any samples of the new strains? We'd really like to make a new cure."

I'd get pretty tired of that, too. This isn't "playing the IP game, with the world's health at stake". This is fighting back against the IP trolls, who are holding the world's health hostage.

Re:Waitaminute. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17938348)

Australians *not* Americans.

Stop your knee jerk reactions, they only make you look stupid.
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