Even The Onion Is Mocking Big Pharma's Focus On Patents Over All Else

from the truth-in-humor dept

For many years, we’ve been pointing out that the big pharmaceutical industry has become so focused, and so reliant, on patents that they’ve lost sight of the plot. They don’t even consider other potential business models or, you know, keeping people healthy. These days, everything is about getting and extending patents, allowing them to charge exorbitant markup rates on drugs around the globe. It’s now reached the point that even The Onion is deftly mocking big pharma’s patent focus, with a story titled: “New Pfizer Breakthrough Miraculously Extends Lifespan Of Near-Death Patents.” Here’s a snippet:

?At Pfizer, patents always come first. Our primary goal is, and always will be, keeping them alive and healthy for as long as possible. And that?s why we couldn?t be happier to announce this wonderful development.? Hilty added that nothing causes Pfizer officials more distress than seeing a once robust patent expire at a young age, a ?terrible tragedy? that allows dozens of generic manufacturers to copy it and offer pharmaceuticals to customers far more cheaply.

It’s both funny and depressing at the same time, because it’s pretty damn accurate. It’s disappointing just how far the pharmaceutical industry has gone over the years. Back in 1929, one of the leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, George Merck, declared:

We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.

That’s a noble position to take. That’s not how the pharmaceutical industry acts today. At all.

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Comments on “Even The Onion Is Mocking Big Pharma's Focus On Patents Over All Else”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

We try never to forget that business is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.

Generalize that just a tiny bit and you have basic capitalism, as described by Adam Smith. It’s a shame today’s so-called “capitalists” have strayed so far from his principles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Profits are just fine so long as a business respects self-ownership derived property rights and adheres to the non-aggression principle (the initiation of force is immoral, self defense is valid).

The main issue with patents (as well as all intellectual monopoly laws – copyright/trademark..etc) is that they are all backed by State force/aggression/violence and do not respect individual property rights.

Ideas are not property. They are not scarce in the economic sense. So for big pharma to use State violence (or threat thereof) to keep others from using the ideas (not property) and their own real physical property, is an immoral act and not one of consensual capitalism.

I prefer consensual relationships and exchange.

CyberKender says:

Big pharma realized that they can make money off of medicines, and they sell more when demand is high. Basic economics, no? So, why would they ever do something to lower demand? For example, cure the common cold. If, say Pfizer, were ever to find a cure, they would probably bury it a deep as they could. Why would they ever want to sell a drug that they can only sell once to each person, when they sell the same drugs over and over hundreds of times, to the same people to relieve their symptoms until their own immune system cures them?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It gets far worse than that. Instead of “common cold,” try “cancer”. There’s a massive amount of research right now going on with the explicit purpose of turning deadly cancers into chronic issues that you can just take a pill for once a day and go on with your life.

As long as you keep paying whatever they charge for one pill a day for the rest of your life, of course…

Anonymous Coward says:

As someone who works in pharma...

…I have to sadly confirm that The Onion is dead on. I’m on the academic/research side, but even from back here in the cheap seats I can see it. Pharma company executives are so greedy that they would gladly watch their own children die horribly if they could profit from it: they are some of the most appallingly selfish, sociopathic people on this planet.

Anonymous Coward says:

“We did not develop this medicine for Indians,” Dekkers said Dec. 3. “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”

– Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers

No this isn’t a Onion story, it’s a real life story of loss of life and greed. You’re witnessing the result of patents in it’s purest form.


Anonymous Coward says:

If Pfizer ever found a cure for the common cold they’d sell it for hundreds of thousands of dollars a dose just to ensure it couldn’t be sold to non-whites because Pfizer openly admits that it hates minorities / foreigners / anyone that doesn’t look Aryan and doesn’t give two shits if the [Insert racist word here] dies a horrible screaming death that could have been prevented by a pill costing $0.05

Caveman says:

Not just the pharma sector, how about the nrj sector that one day will starve us from the air we breath.

Poroffits or should I say growth is at the heart of every business which all of us are part of, education, health and basic living costs so much the the rich gets richer and the poor well we all know where the poor is heading to.
And the rich are a kind of ignorants, getting rid of the middle class will mean no one will be able to afford their products driving them to poverty too, what a happy ending to a dying planet.

GEMont (profile) says:


“That’s not how the pharmaceutical industry acts today. At all.”

Good thing its not because the MAFIA and Drug Cartels and their International Corporations used the half century of tax free world-wide drug proceeds and their control of law through collusion with the members of the federal government to buy into and control the pharmaceutical companies. That’s just impossible.

I suspect aliens.

Seegras (profile) says:

Another historical perspective

“We consider the claim that an industry with patents and design patents will flourish, and one without these ingredients will drown, to be totally wrong” — Alphons Koechlin-Geigy, ca. 1880, president of the swiss trade and industrial society, and member of the Geigy-Family (from Ciba-Geigy, which later became pharma-giant Novartis).

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