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Drug patents - Omnia mutantur, nihil interit. — LiveJournal
February 21st, 2005
12:24 am
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Drug patents

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Date:February 22nd, 2005 03:40 am (UTC)
A lot of drug research is already done or funded by the government (NIH funding). One of the biggest corporate welfare handouts in history was the Bayh-Dole act of 1980, which allowed institutions and private corporations to profit from research done with federal funding. Given that, the pleas of drug companies that they always need a steady income stream to fund research are somewhat deceptive. Most of their own money, as far as drug development goes, ends up funding the FDA drug testing process (which actually is rather expensive).

This seems like sort of a questionable objection. I don't support government subsidies of private research the economic benefits of which accrue to the entity doing the research. Also, I'd consider FDA testing or some roughly equivalent process part of the cost of developing safe, effective medicines.

I am strongly offended by your suggestion that the US "go to war if necessary" against countries which have different policies regarding patents. I don't know what kind of tortured logic you use to justify that. Smuggling occurs all the time for many different kinds of goods, and while it may not be possible to perfectly block re-importation, the US could make reimported drugs scarce and expensive if it wanted to, without involving the military.

It wasn't really meant as a suggestion. It was more of a thought experiment in pushing the situation to the extreme, asking what having a system of patents on medicines might commit us to doing in the ultimate case.

I don't doubt that the US could prevent re-importation well enough to jack the cost of re-imported medicines without involving the military, but that would basically mean a massive expansion of the War on Drugs, which I already don't support.

The fact that you could consider the "existence of a market for the results of medical research" so important in itself that it could justify military action is somewhat disturbing. It also suggests circular logic to me; medicines are only as good as the people they help, and a wonder-drug express which churns out tons of new medicines is not very useful if those medicines in the aggregate do not genuinely improve human lives. As recent events with some blockbuster drugs show, many popular medications are questionably useful or even iatrogenic.

My opinion is that in the long run, it's almost inevitable that the development of a new drug will genuinely improve human lives. Or rather, that the development of a large number of new drugs will genuinely improve human lives—clearly there are certain instances where the side effects of a new medication end up being so bad that it's not used any more, and the total net effect of that particular medication ends up being negative.

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