Patents Or Your Life: Dealing With Patents When Lives Are On The Line
from the questions-questions-questions dept
This isn’t a new issue and there isn’t an easy answer, but questions concerning patents and life-saving drugs aren’t going to go away any time soon. It’s being highlighted now that there’s a fear over Avian flu. First India said it would ignore Roche’s patents to make a generic form of Tamiflu and now Taiwan is saying the same thing. In both cases, they make the claim that saving the lives of their citizens is a lot more important than protecting the intellectual property of a foreign company. The same argument has been made in the past in places like Brazil. In fact, it’s been said for years that, especially in developing nations, it’s often important to ignore intellectual property issues from developed nations in order to protect citizens. Of course, the counter argument is that none of these drugs would have been developed in the first place if there weren’t these patent laws around. While that may be debatable, it is true that the cost of developing these drugs often requires a high expected payout at the end. So what are ways to align these two issues? How can companies expect to get paid for saving lives — and still make the products affordable enough that they actually can save lives? One option bandied about from time to time is (more or less) what’s happening: just make the drugs cheaper in less developed countries. Of course, that just opens up an arbitrage opportunity for someone to buy cheap drugs in those countries and resell them elsewhere (see: pharmacies, Canadian). It seems like perhaps it’s time to start wholly rethinking the entire process.