Comments on: The Patent System and Access to Medicine in Developing Countries: The Problem http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/ Blog, news, books Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:56:00 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.2 By: Max Lybbert http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/#comment-22299 Fri, 29 Oct 2004 18:47:10 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2004/10/the_patent_system_and_access_t.html#comment-22299 I don’t know if Trevor was responding to me, another poster, or to Lessig. I’ll respond to him.

/* You�re basically characterizing capitalism as a problem. You also seem to be saying that drug companies should allocate their resources to pursuits that don�t benefit their customers or stockholders. Doesn�t make much sense to me.
*/

I, for one, would like to keep the “shareholder maximization” rule in place.

However, I also recognize that patents don’t exist in nature. Patents have an interesting history, and often involved a form of royal cronyism (the king granting a particular tea company exclusive rights to sell tea in the American Colonies, for instance). The Constitution recognizes that patents aren’t a bad idea, per se, and grants Congress the authority to grant patents and similar rights “for limited times” to encourage the “progress of science and useful arts.”

I don’t want to abolish patents, but I do think we ought to review patent law every so often to determine if they actually promote the progress of science.

/* Not to mention, patents only last 20 years. All medicines whose patents have expired are available as generics. Simply saying that they deserve it now because they need it doesn�t make much sense to me. I guess I�m not a communist.
*/

It is possible for non-communists to have issues with the current patent system. In fact, patents are a definite government incursion on the free market — they set up an artificial monopoly specifically as a way to prop up prices.

The question, to me, is how much does each patent affect the market. I don’t want to abolish drug patents because I know companies can’t be profitable if they don’t recoup sunk research costs. In fact, they must also use the sucessful drugs to pay for all the research that doesn’t go anywhere.

And the current system does that pretty well. The drug companies are among the most profitable in the world. Much of that profit comes from the patent system, and I believe it is bad public policy to run a one-sided system. I’m not saying that the current system is one-sided, either. I’m saying that we ought to look and determine if it is.

/* The real problem is the lack of real property rights and a reliable legal and governmental system in 3rd world countries. Once they have those, they will be able to work for value, and buy the medicines they can afford.
*/

I would also like to see the Third World countries (and even countries doing a little better than Third World) come out of poverty. Many companies can even make a profit making this happen (think about it, how much more work can somebody do with a lawn mower engine than with a donkey — Briggs & Stratton is among the companies that will make a profit boosting somebody else’s standard of living). That won’t make the patent system any more fair.

***

I did find Trey’s comment very insightful.

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By: Trey Jackson http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/#comment-22298 Fri, 29 Oct 2004 14:54:52 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2004/10/the_patent_system_and_access_t.html#comment-22298 I agree that the drug companies could use some reform and that they are focusing on drugs that make them profitable, as opposed to drugs that help cope with disease.

However, the most cost effective and economically viable ways of helping developing countries is to fix the problems of “poor nutrition, sanitation, and water; [...] inadequate education concerning methods for preventing and treating diseases.”

Which makes more sense, treat everyone with AIDS with expensive drugs? Or to educate them to either abstain or use condoms?

Do you want to stop the disease, or simply treat the symptoms?

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By: Trevor Hill http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/#comment-22297 Fri, 29 Oct 2004 14:29:23 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2004/10/the_patent_system_and_access_t.html#comment-22297 You’re basically characterizing capitalism as a problem. You also seem to be saying that drug companies should allocate their resources to pursuits that don’t benefit their customers or stockholders. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

Not to mention, patents only last 20 years. All medicines whose patents have expired are available as generics. Simply saying that they deserve it now because they need it doesn’t make much sense to me. I guess I’m not a communist.

The real problem is the lack of real property rights and a reliable legal and governmental system in 3rd world countries. Once they have those, they will be able to work for value, and buy the medicines they can afford.

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By: Max Lybbert http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/#comment-22296 Fri, 29 Oct 2004 14:25:17 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2004/10/the_patent_system_and_access_t.html#comment-22296 Drug companies are in an unusual industry. It is, apparently, possible to lead a “productive” career as a researcher for them without ever coming up with a usuable drug. The whole thing is hit and miss — even with science. I think some of it has to do with the chance of stumbling across somebody else’s alread-patented drug.

OTOH, drug companies are among the most profitable in the world, and I believe that patents have much to do with it. I believe it is necessary to take another look at the system. We need a fair system in place.

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By: pagoff http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/#comment-22295 Fri, 29 Oct 2004 11:31:35 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2004/10/the_patent_system_and_access_t.html#comment-22295 Bush in his famous State of the Union in which he was sure WMD were in Iraq, touted generic drugs for HIV that cost $300/year. His HIV treatment program however insists on using only patented drugs costing over $600/year. Meanwhile generics now cost $100/year.

The Bush program serves drug companies rather than patients. His funding will treat 1/6th the number of people than could be service if generics were used.

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By: James Robertson http://www.lessig.org/2004/10/the-patent-system-and-access-t/#comment-22294 Fri, 29 Oct 2004 09:24:07 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2004/10/the_patent_system_and_access_t.html#comment-22294 There’s a reason pharma companies don’t invest in tropical disease vaccines – no profit. Same reason there’s a shortage of flu vaccine – no profit.

Government stepped in to “help” by buying up doses each year at fixed cost. There were over 2 dozen companies making flue vaccines in the early 70′s, and there are 2 now.

Centralizing the process is a recipe for disaster.

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