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The Forum > Article Comments > The inconvenient truths of intellectual property > Comments

The inconvenient truths of intellectual property : Comments

By Natalie Ngo, published 12/10/2012

A report by Oxfam revealed in 2001 that a quarter of Kenya adult population is HIV-positive but less than 2% are receiving treatment.

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Agree with the informative article.
Arguably, much/most/nearly all medical/bio-med research is conducted in universities, at significant public expense!
Joe public should retain some residual patent rights, and or, able to confer the results of publicly paid for research, on the disadvantaged.
If big Pharma, could demonstrate that they and they alone funded all the research into a particular medicine, and they needed so many years of patent protection and price outcomes, to fully refund their research, then maybe their claims could be validated or upheld.
However, this is hardly ever arguable? But particularly, if their only real involvement, was at the latter end commercialization stage?
The ever growing and virtually unstoppable African emergency, and the fact that the HIV continually mutates, sometimes as in Canada, to much more virulent varieties, for which we have no useful medication; means, we really should be pursuing a cure.
The cure will probably come as a result of combining two current therapies, which are used for very different medical problems!
The first, I believe, being a fairly common chemo for Leukaemia, the second, a well know arthritis medication, which seems to make the chemo, much more efficacious; and importantly, available in sub toxic doses!?
[It's not very helpful if we cure the disease, but lose the patient?]
And wouldn't it be great if the cure came out of Africa, as a patent medication they could use, to deal with the African problem, as well as, grabbing a huge slice of a very lucrative North American HIV-aids market! I mean, if the average sufferer, pays $30,000.00 per for anti virals, what would they part with for a cure?
I mean , America alone has around a million registered HIV-aids patients? With each one spending on average, a reported $30,000.00 per, on sometimes efficacious, anti-virals.
If I were into guessing, I'd guess that that was 30,000 million reasons why, big Pharma are apparently not actively pursuing or seriously funding research into a cure?
Medicine or morality?
Think, not all that long ago, we would have concluded, that they were one and the same thing!
Posted by Rhrosty, Friday, 12 October 2012 2:40:47 PM
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The argument for patent protection is not to reimburse pharmaceutical companies for the cost of developing successful medicines, but to compensate them for the unsuccessful ones.

Only a tiny fraction of the drugs that pharmaceutical companies research wind up as successful products. The large profit that they make on patented products provides the incentive to continue with R&D even knowing that most of their experiments will fail. That means that the profit margin on successful drugs, while in patent, are much higher than for other goods.

Hence the seeming obscenity of drugs that cost just a few dollars to make selling for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and poor people dying because they cannot afford them.

The answer, as the author indicates, is market segmentation. Let rich countries pay a price which rewards the development of intellectual capital and incentivises R&D; provide drugs in developing countries at what it costs to produce them. The economic theory seems simple, but of course in practice itís very hard, because there is a strong incentive for arbitrage, and policing boundaries is very difficult.

Publicly funded R&D should focus on drugs for the diseases of the poor, which are unlikely to every turn a profit for private pharmaceutical companies.
Posted by Rhian, Friday, 12 October 2012 3:01:13 PM
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