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AIDS and Patent Law

By joecool12321 in News
Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 12:27:26 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) there are currently 36.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS. That's up roughly 5.3 million people, or an increase of nearly twenty percent. In the year 2000, roughly three million people died from AIDS. There are more than 14,000 new infections each day. Two more people have AIDS now than did when you started reading.


The case is especially horrible in developing nations. In Botswana, thirty-five percent of adults are now infected with HIV. South Africa has 4.2 million people infected with AIDS. With 43.6 million people in the country, that means that one out of every ten people has AIDS. In fact, there are 16 countries with an infection rate over one-tenth between the ages of sixteen and forty-nine.

Anthrax, on the other hand, has killed four Americans, and infected thirteen others according to the Associated Press.

Yet the United States decided that Cipro was so vital to its national security that they threatened to violate Bayer's patent on the drug unless they sold the product at a lower price. Bayer eventually caved, and took a loss of profits in the tens-of-millions in order to protect their patent.

But when a country like South Africa, India, or Brazil decides to violate patent law with regards to AIDS treatments, they incur the wrath of the United States. This double standard was unfortunately timed.

The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement, or TRIPS, is coming before the November 9 meeting of the WTO in Qatar. According to Reuters, "No one believes the provision of cut-price--or even free--AIDS drugs in Africa will seriously dent drug company profits."

Was the United States justified in threatening to ignore Bayer's patent? It seems they were not. Are developing countries justified in ignoring US companies' patents? The argument can easily be made that they are. Will the economic impact of generic AIDS treatment destroy the companies that worked so hard to discover the treatments, and so discourage innovation in the field? There's the rub.

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Poll
AIDS treatments should be:
o The price that the drug companies set 2%
o Whatever the market will bear 17%
o Subsidized 35%
o Free 26%
o Ignored - the problem isn't all that bad 1%
o $42 14%

Votes: 67
Results | Other Polls

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Display: Sort:
AIDS and Patent Law | 62 comments (57 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Now get real (1.60 / 15) (#2)
by thunderbee on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:01:52 AM EST

Has anyone, anyone? ever got the idea that maybe it is in the interest of the western world (whatever it is) that these people die? That maybe, juste maybe, AIDS is a welcome population control method?

Oh, right, I forgot, we don't have governments like this, do we...

Re: Now get real (2.33 / 3) (#3)
by Anoymous 22666 on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:08:23 AM EST

Of course this is not not in the interest of the western world! We're not that heartless!

Their children make excellent shoes and other goods for slave-labour wages in awful working conditions. That is incredibly valuable to the western world!

Anyone else fed up with the world pecking order? :-(

I just farted... And I blame the fiction section. - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
Nike (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by premier on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:19:05 AM EST

Perhaps those poverty stricken countries with AIDS problems should contact NIKE. I'm sure they would be willing to help, since 90% of their workforce consists of 11 year old girls in sweatshops, typically located in these countries.

If their workers start dying of AIDS insteaf of routine work accidents which severe hands, fingers and arms, Nike will be willing to jump in to "lend a hand".



[ Parent ]
Nope (2.25 / 4) (#13)
by Neuromancer on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:42:52 AM EST

It's cheaper to get a new 3rd world little girl than to treat the diseases of one.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm (none / 0) (#48)
by premier on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 12:09:53 AM EST

Sounds like you know from experience? =)

[ Parent ]
That sounded wrong (none / 0) (#61)
by Neuromancer on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 10:08:08 PM EST

I'm not indifferent to this, but if you're going to accuse Nike of running sweatshops, you shouldn't make the assertion that they would care about the people in the sweatshops. On the other hand, one could view it as Nike offering labor in an area that otherwise would ONLY have poverty. Exploitation labor only works when it's the best deal in town...

[ Parent ]
Population (3.20 / 5) (#7)
by Nyarlathotep on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:28:21 AM EST

Actually, those countries high populations are part cause (and part result) of their problems. Now, long painful deaths will just suck your resources and massive numbers of non-refuges vanashing will just create instability; hence more suffering. Still, I don't think most countries with large refugee population on their boarders would really might seeing those populations take a dive (if their diseases did not spread very much).

Anyway, it is always *possible* that significant population drops will help a country. These things are not reall as simple or well-understood as the conspiracy tyheorists would like you to believe. That dose not keep poeople from taking conspiracy like action, but I've never been very impressed with how well real like conspiracies though things through. Witness the CIA and Afganastan.

I don't think the U.S. has ever really seen AIDS as a viable population control method. I think the U.S. and it's companies do see IP as a major export, so it's convienient to foster randroidism.. the same way factory owners have fostered anti-communist sentement. The U.S.'s reaction to Cipro was to be expected. Goverments will always react that way to threats to their citizens (regardless of hypocrasy).

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Population reduction (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by whoozit on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 03:19:31 AM EST

If I remember my history right, it was the bubonic plague which wiped out a good 2/3 (1/3?) of the population of medieval Europe that sparked peasant's revolts and en end to the Feudal era, as a result of severe worker shortages. One could argue that the Renaissance, etc., were very positive outcomes of the population reduction; it led to major changes in the politics of the western world.

Application of this example to the real world in a meaningful way eludes me at the moment, it's 3AM and I should be asleep... :)

-whoozit
...Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
[ Parent ]
cool (none / 0) (#56)
by Nyarlathotep on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 06:22:52 PM EST

I've never heard that one, but I *think* I heard that the dark ages were also partly the result of a plague, i.e. these things are very subtile.

Personally, the whole middle east jihad thing is making me think that the Section 1 "Do anything to prevent a new dark ages" thing is not such a bad idea.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
US? (4.00 / 7) (#4)
by duxup on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:12:37 AM EST

United States decided that Cipro was so vital to its national security that they threatened to violate Bayer's patent on the drug

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it wasn't it Canada that decide to violate that patent and not the US?

Sort of (5.00 / 3) (#8)
by premier on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:30:08 AM EST

I think the US govt threatended to violate the patent if Bayer would not lower the price per dose, and increase production to meet the new demand due to the recent Anthrax infections.

[ Parent ]
Humm (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by duxup on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:25:48 AM EST

I can't find an article to confirm that.

[ Parent ]
I can (5.00 / 4) (#15)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 07:17:15 AM EST

Try the BBC:
US and Bayer settle anthrax row
The two sides held talks on Tuesday amid pressure from the US Congress to disregard Bayer's patent and buy ciprofloxacin, the generic name for Cipro, cheaper elsewhere.

---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#16)
by duxup on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 07:34:19 AM EST



[ Parent ]
not that serious of a threat (none / 0) (#44)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:01:55 PM EST

FWIW the threat was never really serious, as the Bush administration would have to initiate any attempts to set aside Bayer's patent, and Bush repeatedly said that he had no intentions to do so, even specifically reaffirming that position after the (since retracted) Canadian threat to the patent. The pressure was from some Congress members, particularly Charles Schumer (D-NY).

[ Parent ]
Uhmm (3.33 / 12) (#9)
by Neuromancer on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:52:19 AM EST

Cite a different disease.

There is no way to cure any viral infection, as well as no way to vaccinate AIDs.

Whereas Cipro is an antibiotic that can save lives and cure disease, all treatments for AIDs can merely reduce symptoms.

Personally, I regard this as a difficult issue. Force a price drop, and research reduces, but they prevent poor countries from gaining these drugs. Ironically, plenty of Americans can't get them either.

Your argument is flawed in one way though. You CANNOT expect Americans to act in the best interest of other coutries over their own. Other countries would not act in our best interests either. This is foolishness. People find the country that has made it into the lead and tear it down. The simple fact of the matter is that we cannot expect the US government to act outside their self-interests, assertions against this are foolhardy. You can't expect American citizens to be unwilling to go to higher extremes in their self preservation than in the preservation of people outside our country. The emotional response from the US when people from Afghanistan and Africa die cannot expect to be higher than their response to our deaths.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that you can't attack human nature when it's exhibitted by Americans and not when it's exhibitted elsewhere. Additionally, you are comparing apples and oranges when you compare these drugs. There is nothing for AIDs that can do anything even similar to what Cipro can do for Anthrax.

Chronic (5.00 / 4) (#21)
by finial on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:59:22 AM EST

Whereas Cipro is an antibiotic that can save lives and cure disease, all treatments for AIDs can merely reduce symptoms.

You are correct when you say treatments "merely" reduce symptoms. However, current protocols can turn the disease into a chronic condition and not, necessarily, a death sentence. A "chronic" condition is one that you continue to have but is manageable through some means (diet, exercise, drugs, lifestyle modifications, &c) like hypertension, diabetes, &c. That's a big difference. But it can only be turned into a chronic condition if the drugs that can do it are available.



[ Parent ]
Introducing facts into the discussion (4.66 / 3) (#35)
by Sunir on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:48:59 PM EST

You don't have your facts straight, but I'll do my best to introduce some. Some viruses are curable, like the common cold. Your immune system does this for you. Therefore, it is not true that "There is no way to cure any viral infection."

Further, it's fallacious to suggest there is no way to vaccinate against HIV just because we haven't discovered one. While this is a rhetorical nitpick, it built on your previous absolutist statement, so I felt it read like there will never be a vaccine. Clearly there are vaccines for viruses, such as the influenza viruses.

Further, it is possible to derive vaccines for retroviruses, the nastier type of virus. For instance, Google serves up news that the National Institute of Health in the U.S. developed a vaccine for a diarrhea inducing retrovirus.

The problem with HIV in particular is not that it is a virus, but that it is a very nasty virus. It has the following defenses (and more):

  • The tendency to mutate into variant genetic strains that escape immune responses.
  • Various immune system attacks and defenses, like the destruction of helper T-cells, antibody masking, and induced immunosuppression.
  • The ability to remain dormant while embedded in the DNA of your infected cells, and then reactivate later, meaning it comes back in waves despite temporary successes.
Indeed, as it is so good at defeating your immune system, a patient usually dies of another agent. Either another infectious disease or a cancer that your immune system would normally kill.

At the current time, it's true that the best common practice merely suppresses the virus' activity, preventing it from spreading much internally and causing you damage as quickly. On the other hand, many teams are making remarkable advances. Certainly there are a number of HIV vaccines under research, some even at the human stage of testing.

Finally, it's a non-sequitor to bring up an unsupported premise that "You CANNOT expect Americans to act in the best interest of other coutries over their own" as "other countries would not act in our best interests either." I don't actually think this is true, and I think you are merely a product of decades of a particular slant to foreign policy decisions by the American government, but for argument's sake, I urge you to consider "enlightened self-interest," which is usually expressed as "what goes around, comes around."

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Turning the argument (none / 0) (#62)
by Neuromancer on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 10:13:18 PM EST

Curing viruses counts on your own immune system cleaning them out. No DRUGS can cure viruses. There's no CURE for the common cold. Your body recovers from it on its own. The only thing the DRUGS do is reduce the symptoms. Since your body can't recover from AIDs, this is obviously ineffective. Since there is no way for a DRUG to cure a virus, there is no way for this to be done.

[ Parent ]
Premise of article is illogical (3.44 / 9) (#10)
by sigwinch on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:56:17 AM EST

The governments of third world countries do not "violate" a patent. Patents are an element of government policy, and thus it is logically impossible for a government to violate a patent. If a government chooses not to grant a patent on a drug, that decision is by definition legal, and is just another public health policy that affects corporations. It's really no different from making companies prepare food in clean kitchens.
Yet the United States decided that Cipro was so vital to its national security that they threatened to violate Bayer's patent on the drug unless they sold the product at a lower price. Bayer eventually caved, and took a loss of profits in the tens-of-millions in order to protect their patent.
Legislatures cannot violate patents by definition.
That's up roughly 5.3 million people, or an increase of nearly twenty percent.
Up 20% from what?
Anthrax, on the other hand, has killed four Americans, and infected thirteen others according to the Associated Press.
So? The interest in anthrax attacks is that they scale up in a militarily interesting fashion. $50k pays for a modest attack like the current one. $500k kills a city. $100M kills a significant fraction of the US population. (Dollar values are educated guesses.)

HIV, on the other hand, is not of direct military interest. It is fundamentally no more dangerous than obesity, or alcoholism.

Was the United States justified in threatening to ignore Bayer's patent? It seems they were not.
Says who?

(My vote was -1.)

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.

Hmmm (5.00 / 5) (#11)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 05:57:06 AM EST

The interest in anthrax attacks is that they scale up in a militarily interesting fashion. $50k pays for a modest attack like the current one. $500k kills a city. $100M kills a significant fraction of the US population.
There is absolutely no proof of this. It is in fact extremely unlikely that a non-infectious agent like anthrax could eliminate a significant fraction of the US population. There is only one component to an anthrax attack: the number of people exposed to the spores. Deaths will scale linearly with the amount of anthrax released, not exponentially. (Certainly not using your figures: if $50k buys 4 deaths, then $500k buys 40 deaths, and $100 million buys 8000 deaths.)
HIV, on the other hand, is not of direct military interest. It is fundamentally no more dangerous than obesity, or alcoholism.
Then you have a funny definition of "dangerous". Infection with HIV almost invariably results in death within 10 years of infection if no treatment is given, and less if the patient is malnourished or has a weakened immune system. A baby infected with HIV will die before its tenth birthday if given no treatment. An obese baby won't, as proved by three-quarters of the US population.

[ Parent ]
Scaling (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by sigwinch on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:09:29 PM EST

Deaths will scale linearly with the amount of anthrax released, not exponentially.
True, but the cost of manufacture scales very sub-linearly with quantity. Just as in beer brewing there are tremendous economies of scale. For large volumes the dominant cost becomes distribution and logistics (e.g., buying stamps), which is what my guesstimate was based on.
Then you have a funny definition of "dangerous". Infection with HIV almost invariably results in death within 10 years of infection if no treatment is given, and less if the patient is malnourished or has a weakened immune system.
HIV is fairly innocuous. It is almost totally non-transmissible, the dominant transmission modes are extremely well characterized and avoidable, and there are cheap and highly-reliable tests for detecting infection. Whether or not you will become infected is largely a conscious lifestyle choice. (I'll bet there's a large correlation between HIV infection and not bothering to use turn signals while driving a car.)

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Dangerous (4.50 / 4) (#22)
by finial on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:02:33 AM EST

It is fundamentally no more dangerous than obesity, or alcoholism.

Then you must only be about 20 years old. In the mid '80s I was going to one or two funerals a week. Curious definition of "fundamentally" you have there.



[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by aphrael on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:49:02 PM EST

It is fundamentally no more dangerous than obesity, or alcoholism.

Interesting analogy, and totally flawed. AIDS is communicable (obesity and alcoholism are not); it has a long latency period which makes it *more* likely to be spread than things which have a short latency; and, when unchecked, it can walk through communities killing just about everyone. The gay communities of NYC and SF saw this in the early-to-mid 80s; sub-Saharan Africa is seeing it now. Yes, it *can* be checked. But that doesn't make it not dangerous --- and it's certainly more dangerous than obesity or alcoholism, and arguably more dangerous than anthrax. (AIDS will spread from person to person, while anthrax won't; anthrax will kill you RealSoonNow, if you catch it, while AIDS will kill you SomeDayInTheFuture. It's hard to tell which is more dangerous given that trade-off.)

[ Parent ]

Obesity (none / 0) (#34)
by ucblockhead on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:22:00 PM EST

And not many twenty-five year olds die of obesity.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Curious (4.00 / 7) (#18)
by theR on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:13:26 AM EST

But when a country like South Africa, India, or Brazil decides to violate patent law with regards to AIDS treatments, they incur the wrath of the United States.

What wrath are you speaking of? I'm not trying to imply there are not repercussions, but I am wondering what those repercussions are. Also, is it the U.S. government taking action, the drug companies, or both? I would guess it is primarily the drug companies that initiate everything, but I would expect that they have to get the U.S. government to do their dirty work for them.

I'd also like to point something out. The actions of the drug companies with regard to pricing and patents are not confined to developing countries. Non generic medicine is very expensive in the U.S. Although Americans, in most cases, are in a better financial position to pay for medications, there are a lot of complaints from Americans about how the drug companies seemingly gouge everybody.



The Retaliation... (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by linca on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 11:08:03 AM EST

"Violating medication patents" would be considered by the US government, I think, as a fair trade violation. So the US considers it has the right to retaliate through strongly tariffing some goods coming from the offending country.

[ Parent ]
Interestingly... (none / 0) (#58)
by Robert S Gormley on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 08:13:02 AM EST

One of George W Bush's methods for "thanking" Australia for its military support was to approve increasing the subsidies and tariffs on several Australian products...

[ Parent ]
AIDS Is Preventable (2.53 / 13) (#20)
by SPrintF on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:51:27 AM EST

AIDS is nearly 100% preventable. We know how the disease is transmitted. There are methods for blocking transmission. For whatever reason, there are people who refuse to modify their behavior to remove this risk, and so they contract the disease.

People who smoke have an increased risk of cancer and emphysema. People who regularly eat at Burger King have an increased risk of heart disease and colo-rectal cancer. They know this, and they do it anyway. I guess they felt the behavior was worth the risk.

I feel sympathy for babies born with AIDS because they had no choice. For the rest, well, it's their life. There's no point trying to rescue them from the consequence of their folly.

Knowledge (4.75 / 4) (#23)
by finial on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:33:57 AM EST

You are assuming that the government (whichever one you want to talk about) is allowing the prevention information to get to the people who need it. I the bible belt, there are laws against discussing anything related to sex with school-aged children. The only thing they are told is "don't do it." Abstinence may be the right course, who knows, but unless you explain what the consequences of the actions are, it's pointless.

In some parts of Africa, it is believed that having sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS. There is a trial just starting against six men who raped a nine *month* old girl in the belief they would be cured. (Although still alive, it is unlikely the little girl will survive. She was literally split in two.)

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa does not believe HIV causes AIDS and has refused to make AZT (and other drugs) available. (You may remember last year's flap about it.) Rather, he aligns himself with the thorougly discredited theories of Peter Duesberg. This does appear to be changing *slowly*, but in the mean time, 25% of all pregnant women in South Africa are HIV+ and the services and drugs needed to slow this down are not there in no small part because of the governments (in)action.

To say "there's no point trying to rescue them from the consequence of their folly" is stupid at best.



[ Parent ]
Knowledge? (4.87 / 8) (#27)
by epepke on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:06:32 PM EST

First, I'd like to say that this isn't an argument against providing AIDS drugs. Personally, I think that the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan some years ago was a crime against humanity.

But wer're talking South Africa, right? The country with cities that have skyscrapers? The country with orbital launch capability? The one with recording studios and very good jazz? The one that got democratic rule in 1988 to end the British/Dutch horror of Apartheid and so make things better?

If people in South Africa have elected a complete stupid, it isn't because they lack knowledge; it's because they have made a decision to be brain-dead, superstitious idiots. This happens a lot in Africa. For example, the recent Ebola outbreaks happened around hospitals, because they didn't believe in cleaning needles between patients. Yes, they're poor, but there always seems to be plenty of money for guns.

The same goes for the Bible Belt. I live there, and while it is horrible, it isn't as bad as you think. One can get condoms, easily. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be much of an AIDS pandemic compared to, say, the non-Bible Belt.

I'm sad about people in Africa too, but I can guarantee you that a bunch of pills isn't going to make people stop raping virgins. It isn't going to cause the president of South Africa to grow a brain. It isn't going to make governments buy fewer guns or relocate people out of deserts. For the past 20 years people have done as much as they can to end European colonial rule in Africa. Part of self-rule is that, yes, you can make decisions that will kill a whole lot of your people, slowly and painfully. As Gandhi said, freedom means nothing if it does not include the freedom to harm yourself.

It certainly isn't magically going to solve complex problems like the one the U.S. faced when the emergence of effective treatments resulted in new infections going up instead of down.

I support letting pharmaceutical companies in Africa make AIDS drugs cheaply. However, I think that those who talk about how U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies aren't doing enough, if they are honest, should be able to admit many parallels between what they are saying and The White Man's Burden. You want to go educate Africans and give them your knowledge, fine. I agree, but I don't want to hear any crap about Western Imperialist Interference when it happens.

I didn't make the world; I just live here. The world is a dangerous place, and stupidity kills. Mostly it kills people nearby the people being stupid. This is the big problem that humanity faces. A lot of people have tried a lot of solutions which haven't worked. Nowadays, people laugh at all those old solutions, but they don't have any better ones. Any fool can knock down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
is peter duesberg discredited? (none / 0) (#43)
by rehan on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 08:12:10 PM EST

I know of a person who has been diagnosed with AIDS, but has consistently tested HIV negative.

Stay Frosty and Alert


[ Parent ]
Mmmmm... Burger King... (1.00 / 1) (#24)
by Locus27 on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 12:44:41 PM EST

*droooool*

"You're one fucked up cookie."
-Shawn R. Fitzgerald

[ Parent ]

no choice (4.75 / 4) (#36)
by I am Jack's username on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:53:22 PM EST

> I feel sympathy for babies born with AIDS
> because they had no choice. For the rest, well,
> it's their life. There's no point trying to rescue
> them from the consequence of their folly.

What about people living in a plutocracy where the leaders don't care enough (here in South Africa), rape victims (women, children, babies, men (in prisons and the army)), hemophiliacs and other accident victims, nurses, doctors, hospital staff (I've worked as a X-ray operator), experimenting teenagers...

We had an HIV/AIDS seminar where I work now, and when the lady giving the lecture finished, she asked if we knew anyone who was HIV+. When nobody answered she told us that we just had - she was HIV+ because as a teenager she had unprotected sex. Boom!

Is this amazing woman one of the people who deserves what she got because of her "folly"?
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

The three things we want. (3.66 / 9) (#25)
by Apuleius on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 12:47:38 PM EST

[1] We want lots and lots of new drugs to treat our every malady, especially now that our population is aging.
[2] We want our drugs to be safe and effective. We want a tough FDA (or non-US equiv) to make sure of that.
[3] We want our drugs to be cheap.
Now, pick any two. You can't have all three. What the US right now has is 1 and 2. Big Pharma is pumping out new drugs, and the FDA is trying to keep a close eye on the process. The reason we can't have 3 as well is that the cost of development of a new drug is roughly a gigabuck, and this cost is recovered through the drug patents. Once the patent expires, drug market rates are determined by the market, which cares only about the cost of production. If the cost of development hosed you and you didn't recover it before your patent expired, you're hosed.

A better solution right now is 2 and 3. We have a big drug arsenal at our disposal, and if we have the balls to admit that when we age, we'll have a hard time no matter what, we can forgo 1. The problem is the large number of people who will respond to me with "what do you mean 'we', white boy?" But another reason we need to switch to 2&3 is that all these years of 1&2 have lead to a corrupting effect on the Western academic science infrastructure and a shakeup is needed.

I agree it may be time to break some patents. But let's not pretend there won't be a cost to it, and let's not pretend it won't cause discontent in a major portion of the population.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Three things (5.00 / 3) (#33)
by ucblockhead on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:18:32 PM EST

Having (1) and (2) in rich countries, like the US, does not preclude having (3) in dirt poor areas, like Africa. Clearly, drug companies are not going to be recouping development costs from Africa, because the money simply isn't there. Because of that, allowing African countries to break patents on crucial drugs, doesn't really "cost" the drug companies much, because the people who will get the resulting cheap generics would not have been able to afford the original drug in the first place.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Kind of like the justification for piracy... (4.33 / 3) (#38)
by noer on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:11:53 PM EST

The argument you present is similar to the justification many people (myself included, sometimes) use for piracy - if I wasn't ABOUT to pay $500 for Adobe Photoshop, then Adobe isn't losing a sale from my pirating it, so it doesn't hurt them - "honest" piracy.

What's interesting is that the argument holds relatively little water in the case of software, but when peoples' lives are at stake, it does seem quite compelling. I personally agree; those nations should break the patent. The problem is that the monied interests are very good at convincing the corporatocracy that their intellectual property rights are sacrosanct, and supercede even the value of human life.
-- I eat with my fingers. Don't use utensils if you email me.
[ Parent ]
Law (4.66 / 3) (#40)
by ucblockhead on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 05:23:24 PM EST

I'm not talking about breaking laws. "Patents" are a privilege granted by governments, not a natural right. Patents can, and sometimes are, modified for "the greater good".

What I'm saying is that poor countries faced with epidemics should not be legally bound by patents for medications that would help halt the epidemic.

That's not piracy. That's the governments of those countries deciding what privileges to grant corporations.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Bullying (4.66 / 3) (#42)
by noer on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:37:02 PM EST

But when one huge, powerful nation's government (USA) bullies and threatens smaller nations (South Africa) into upholding US patents, that's no longer the government of that nation deciding whether or not to uphold that patent; it's like the BSA telling you that you WILL pay for that software or they WILL take all your money. Nobody has the "right" to violate copyright, but since here the "right" of those nations' governments to decide whether or not to honor those patents based on the merits of the patent and the need of the people has been taken away by force by the US...
-- I eat with my fingers. Don't use utensils if you email me.
[ Parent ]
Re: three things. (none / 0) (#39)
by Apuleius on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 05:20:43 PM EST

Having (1) and (2) in rich countries, like the US, does not preclude having (3) in dirt poor areas, like Africa. Beg to differ. Third world gangsters will easily create a back channel by which these drugs will be sold in an American black market. That does not justify the current scheme in my view (the back channels are an acceptable cost in my book), but it's still the truth.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Drugs aren't the answer... (3.25 / 4) (#26)
by WombatControl on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:03:50 PM EST

Just giving cheap or free AIDS drugs to impoverished countries isn't nearly such a good idea as it appears on the surface. These drugs often have bad side effects, and must be taken while under the supervision of a physician who knows these side effects. Africa doesn't have the medical infrastructure to safely admininster these drugs. Without proper supervision, these drugs can be exceptionally harmful. The idea of just passing out drugs, be it AZT for AIDS or Cipro for anthrax is not a prudent one. Drugs have side effects and should always be taken under the supervision of a physician.



Extrapolating your conclusion (4.40 / 5) (#32)
by Sunir on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:54:16 PM EST

That would imply that we would be acting in the people's best interests by withholding medical treatment? Especially on the assumption that there is no medical infrastructure capable of handling the distribution, despite the fact that there certainly is (at least some) medical infrastructure capable. So, to those people who have access to this infrastructure, you so benignly say from over here, "Sorry, it's for your own best interest."

I find that rather arrogant. I would personally rather let professionals in the situation there direct the discussion over what and how much they need. They at least have the knowledge about the drugs, and they certainly are the ones with the best knowledge about the situation.

So, no. It's not legitimate to argue the best's interest of others from our position. That would imply they were not adults and societies responsible for their own lives.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Put things in perspective (4.00 / 5) (#28)
by MSBob on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:10:11 PM EST

Two more people have AIDS now than did when you started reading.

Let's put things in perspective shall we? By the time you've finished reading this comment ten people will have died of cancer. I think that speaks for itself and shows clearly where the medical research efforts should concentrate. That's not to say that AIDS/HIV isn't a problem but let us keep the focus right.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

Yes and no ... (4.00 / 3) (#30)
by aphrael on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:44:52 PM EST

AIDS is in some sense more dangerous because it's communicable --- eg., anyone who has it can easily infect others. This means that it has the *potential* to spread much faster than it is, and much faster than cancer, which isn't communicable, can. It's therefore more of a threat to public health than the number of people currently infected would indicate.

[ Parent ]
really, are you that surprised? (2.71 / 7) (#29)
by mickj on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:10:47 PM EST

The U.S. government is just one big hypocracy. They do what they want because they have the guns and the gold. Remember now the golden rule:

He who has the gold(and the guns) makes the rules

AIDS in 3rd World Countries (4.42 / 7) (#41)
by catseye on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 05:41:14 PM EST

I really can't see the point of free or low-cost AIDS drugs being offered to Africa and other third world countries. It may alleviate the suffering of some and prolong their lives a bit, but it will NOT lower the spread of the disease.

HIV/AIDS flourishes in Africa because of cultural practices and poverty. All the free AIDS drugs in the world aren't going to change that. Bring them up to a basic standard of living where they have access to clean water, basic medical care, sanitation facilities and food, THEN worry about giving them AIDS drugs. What's the point of giving these drugs to people who are going to starve to death or die from dysentary before AIDS gets them?

Once you've tackled the poverty, you then have to deal with the cultural issues, including superstition and illiteracy. They engage in dangerous behaviors such as "wife inheritance", where a man's wife will become the property of his surviving male relatives; pursuing myths such as having sex with a virgin will cure one of AIDS; breast-feeding infants when the mothers know they are HIV positive; they may believe it's a curse, not a disease; or, they don't like to wear condoms. In some cultures, a man's achievement is measured by the number of sexual partners he has, and both men and women are judged by the number of children they have.

They don't need free AIDS drugs. They need education, food, governments that don't slaughter them, legal equality between the sexes, health care, birth control and clean places to live.

Sources: UN Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization, CNN, African Educational Research Network



valididty of reported number of African AIDS cases (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by krkrbt on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 04:06:24 AM EST

I'm about to go to bed, but I have to put this link up: http://aliveandwell.org/index.php?page=africa.

... AIDS is a name for 30-odd diseases found in conjunction with a positive test for antibodies to the human immunodeficiency virus. Being "HIV positive," then, is the unifying requirement for an AIDS case. Here is the key point that the newspapers won't tell you. To diagnose AIDS in Africa, no HIV test is needed. The presence of the unifying agent that supposedly causes the immune deficiency, the ID of AIDS, does not have to be established.

This was decided by public health officials at an AIDS conference in Bangui, a city in the Central African Republic, in October 1985. This meeting was engineered by an official from the CDC, Joseph McCormick. He wanted to establish a diagnostic definition of AIDS to be used in poor countries that lacked the equipment to do blood tests.

So you're exactly right when it comes to lowering the spread of "the disease" - tackle the poverty, and the rest will take care of itself.



[ Parent ]
Would you admit? (4.00 / 3) (#51)
by joecool12321 on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 04:24:54 AM EST

Would you admit that changing a culture is difficult? Would you admit that it <i>might</i> be morally questionable to practice cultural imperialism? Would you admit that there are AIDS treatments that, if generic versions were available, would be very inexpensive?

If you accept any of these as true, would you accept that AIDS treatments would be usefull now, short term?

Would you agree that the US's double-standard is wrong with regards to patent infringement?

I'm not saying don't change the way things are, I think that's a great idea. But there are ways to help with the problem now, that can't be pursued because of economic issues.

Good points, though.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
re: Would you admit? (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by catseye on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 10:48:53 AM EST

RE: "Would you admit that changing a culture is difficult?"

Yes, it is very difficult to overcome traditions, especially in such an ancient culture.

RE: "Would you admit that it <i>might</i> be morally questionable to practice cultural imperialism?"

I don't think it can be defined as cultural imperialism because we cannot force them to change. All we can do is teach them. We cannot make them accept the teachings.

RE: "Would you admit that there are AIDS treatments that, if generic versions were available, would be very inexpensive?"

Possibly.

RE: "If you accept any of these as true, would you accept that AIDS treatments would be usefull now, short term?"

Not without education. If these people are ignorant (not stupid, simply ignorant) enough to think they can be cured by having sex with a virgin, perhaps they'll stop taking whatever few precautions they have been taking if their symptoms lessen.

Again, because of the nature of this disease, this is useless without education.

RE: "Would you agree that the US's double-standard is wrong with regards to patent infringement?"

If a biological attack on the United States, then the United States has the duty to protect its population. If the patent-holding company cannot make enough of the drugs necessary to treat the population, then the government /must/ step in and allow other companies to manufacture the drug. Rules change in war. So... would it be wrong for the US to break the patent on a drug used to counteract the biological attack? No. Would it be wrong for them to break the patent on a drug just to get it cheaper for medicare patients? Yes.

[ Parent ]
Double Standard of US (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by joecool12321 on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 02:01:15 PM EST

"If the patent-holding company cannot make enough of the drugs necessary to treat the population, then the government /must/ step in and allow other companies to manufacture the drug"

But the issue here was never the capacity of Bayer to make the drug, simply the drug's cost, and that was the gist of the article.

I think we can agree on AIDS treatment: it should be given sooner rather than later to assist short-term, but the Ultimate Cure is the education of the populace.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
on a somewhat tangential issue... (none / 0) (#45)
by Delirium on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:09:26 PM EST

...why does HIV/AIDS get disproportionally so much attention and funding, particularly in the US? In the US it ranks fairly low amongst diseases, yet a great deal of money is being spent on it. I don't have the figures right now, but I remember a newspaper article about 6 months ago that gave figures for research dollars spent per infected person; HIV/AIDS was the "major" disease with the highest research dollars per person (the only ones higher were some very rare diseases - when you only have say 5 infected people your ratio of $/person is quite high).

A few reasons... (none / 0) (#54)
by linca on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 12:00:00 PM EST

Some of those doctors researching new drugs actually work for being famous and out of pride. AIDS is the only absolutely uncurable disease widespread in the Western world. Finding a cure for it means Noble Prize, glory....

AIDS is one of the few disease killing people more or less in their youth. Cancer or heart diseases cause so many deaths because quite often they mean dying of old age ; AIDS kill people with still a long time to live

Current AIDS treatments, when sold in the west, bring a lot of money to the companies who develop them ; they are usually expensive and life-long.



[ Parent ]
A medical researcher (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by mjs on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:17:04 PM EST

whom I trust because neither he nor his lab work on AIDS and because of very long acquaintence tells me that the reported level of AIDS infection in sub-Saharan Africa are systematically underreported (for a variety of reasons I don't want to go into at the moment.) He told me years ago that it would be closer to the truth if you took the reported figures and double them. He still says the same thing today. Interestingly, he said in 1985 or 1986 that AIDS was going to become Africa's Apocalypse in 'about 20 years'. Pretty much everything he said 20 years ago has proven to be on target, so I see no reason to disbelieve him on this one.

Doggone it - I wasn't done! (none / 0) (#47)
by mjs on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:23:57 PM EST

I do some work with missionaries, many of whom are either back in the US for short leaves after spending years in Africa, or who are from Africa and who's family, etc. are still there. Their reports of AIDS back up my medical researcher's assertions and appear to contradict official figures as well.

[ Parent ]
AIDS is a Non-Issue (none / 0) (#57)
by Robert Uhl on Thu Nov 08, 2001 at 04:25:48 PM EST

I will donate money to AIDS research when there's a Herpes Hike and a Chlamydia Quilt. It's just another venereal disease and its contraction is very avoidable. If folks weren't promiscuous, it would not be an issue. There are two innocent groups: non-promiscuous folks who married promiscuous ones; and folks way back when who were getting it from blood (the father & mother of a friend of mine contracted it when the father had heart surgery--both died many years ago). I feel sorry for the two innocent groups, but I believe that they are relatively small in size. As for the folks, heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual (I don't care), who catch it from having sex willy-nilly, I really cannot feel much more than sad for them. It's a preventable problem.

I really wouldn't steal from someone else to give them aid. I might donate of my own free will--but I'm not going to condone theft to help people who refused to help themselves. Charity is one thing; coercion is another entirely.

More innocents (none / 0) (#59)
by catseye on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:28:31 AM EST

You forgot the most innocent group -- children who get it from their mothers at birth or through breast feeding later.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, but.. (none / 0) (#60)
by Rift on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 12:26:32 PM EST

If you're gonna have sex, willy-nilly is the best way!

--Rift
A pen is to a car what a meteor is to a _____
[ Parent ]
AIDS and Patent Law | 62 comments (57 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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