Pharma Officials Insist That There Is 'Zero Evidence' That Patents Harm Access To Medicine

from the just-because-you-don't-look,-doesn't-mean-it's-not-there dept

Yesterday afternoon, the twitter feed for “LillyPad,” which is Eli Lilly’s “policy” blog and Twitter feed, excitedly tweeted out a quote from Stefan Oschmann, an executive at pharmaceutical competitor Merck, who was just elected as the new head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) — basically, the big pro-pharma lobbying group. The tweet is no longer there, because LillyPad deleted it, but here’s a screenshot I took apparently seconds before it disappeared:

As you can see, they’re quoting Oschmann insisting that “there is zero evidence that intellectual property is a hindrance to access to medicines.” Almost immediately, you can see that nearly all of the responses started pointing to… um… evidence of how patents are a hindrance to access to medicine. Here’s an OxFam paper and a massive paper from Medicins San Frontieres (MSF) Access Campaign, which focuses specifically on improving access to life-saving medicines. Lots of other comments were just mocking the claim, with some asking if Lilly was going to post a correction.

Perhaps recognizing just how ridiculous the whole thing looked, Lilly went with option “pretend it never happened” and deleted the tweet. What might have been better and more productive would have been to come out and admit that the statement was bullshit and that there are legitimate concerns about how patents can hold back access to medicine. An intellectually honest organization might then try to kick off a discussion about the different issues and the tradeoffs, recognizing that patents clearly do harm access, but potentially could also create incentives that lead to new drug creation (this is the standard claim, anyway, though some are skeptical of that as well).

But it appears that Eli Lilly (and IFPMA) have no interest in being intellectually honest or having such a discussion. No, they’ve decided to stick to the ridiculous and bogus corporate line that patents are all butterflies and roses, and do no harm at all. What a wasted opportunity — even if it helped show the true colors of the current leadership of the pharmaceutical industry.

And it’s even more ridiculous that this all took place at an IFPMA event where “global health” was the key topic, and they talked about “inclusiveness” and “sustainability” along with transparency. But, in the end that’s all clearly buzzwords and smoke screens, because when its new boss makes a stupid, clearly incorrect statement that shows what the industry is all about, the message gets hidden and there’s no discussion or transparency at all. For shame.

As for Dr. Oschmann, seeing as he’s a long-term Merck exec, he’d do well to remember the words of George Merck, from nearly a century ago:

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.

It appears that sentiment has long since been beaten out of Merck.

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Companies: eli lilly, ifpma, merck

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Comments on “Pharma Officials Insist That There Is 'Zero Evidence' That Patents Harm Access To Medicine”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Party Line: Patents ensure that the huge costs involved with discovering and developing new drugs are covered.

“Party” Line: Patents ensure that the huge costs involved with supplying our massive layers of bureaucracy with enough drugs and hookers to be able to say the Party Line without laughing are covered.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: do NOT let Big (P)harma fool you ! ! !

when these fat cats get out their violins, and start waxing poetical about how much they help humanity, etc, etc, etc…

remember this:
they spend FAR MORE on MARKETING than they do on R&D…
they spend FAR MORE on MARKETING than they do on R&D…

now, maybe that puts their crocodile tears in a little better perspective…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Old PR vs New PR

I think part of the problem, and what causes massive screw-ups like this, is that they’re still using the old rules for advertising, when it was one way: they made the statements, the public read/listened/watched them.

Under that system, their completely bogs claim likely would have made it through relatively unscathed, as people couldn’t directly counter the claim.

Under the new, current system however, it’s a two-way street, where formerly ‘silent’ customers can and will respond directly to the claims being made, and if those claims are rubbish, they will say so.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a bridge for sale too

Jazz Pharmaceuticals drug Xyrem is evidence that Patents limit access to drugs. Few years ago the standard dose was about $3,000/month. Its now over $10,000/month.

This drug is simple and cheap to manufacture, the fact they have a patent is the only thing allowing them to have a 99% profit margin.

Patent allows unnecessarily high profit margins.
High prices reduce access to drugs because not everyone can afford $120,000 a year for their medication.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I have a bridge for sale too

To play Big Pharma’s advocate:
What you’ve just stated is that the patents allow them to have a 99% profit margin. What they’ve always said is that they need 20 years of such margins in order to pay for their future research. So that increase in price is paying for the next generation of drugs, including all the ones that fail to work out.

So basically, you haven’t said anything other than “this scheme is a profit maker for these companies, and there are people willing to pay for the product.”

What we really need is to then see a) how long have the Xyrem patents been in place for? and b) is this profit rolling back into further research and development, or is it going to bonuses, share dividends and lobbying?

Once THOSE questions have been answered, we’ll have something scathing to say to them, not before.

DigDug says:

Re: Re: I have a bridge for sale too

So the medication charge back covers the cost of R&D for this drug, and several generations to come, yet when those new drugs become available, they will continue the same pattern.

At this point, big pharma has all the cash they need to pay for the next 2000 generations of drugs, while giving everything away for free for the next 200 years.

Excellent, when will we see that happen?

Never, because it’s all about greed, nothing else matters to big pharma.

Drug kills 3000 people, big pharma will cover it with a PR smoke screen while they continue to rake in profits and kill other people.

All that happens is that the drug gets pulled from the market just as the patent expires and nobody else can make the drug. Big pharma gets fined for a total of about .01% of the profits they made on the drug, so it’s a big win.

Turn that around, restrict cost recovery to provable, documented costs for the drug, and as soon as that’s met, the patent expires and generics can be made.

Then, if a drug kills people, and big pharma doesn’t immediately remove the drug from the market, hold their senior officers, board members and majority stock holders liable for the murder charges.

You’ll see a turn-around that is so fast, you’ll end up with whip-lash.

Make it so that if the drug is so expensive that someone cannot afford it, and the person dies, that the company has to pay out 200% of the total income they’ve made on the drug since it was released. Not profits, but income – ie – total sales, before covering any expenses.

We’ll see prices drop, safer drugs, fewer bad side effects because not one of the officers of the company, the board of directors nor the majority stock holders will want to spend time in prison.

Gee – what a perfect way to fix things.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: I have a bridge for sale too

Patents on drugs are an abomination. R&D should be carried out collaboratively as a matter of public health, paid for via our taxes.

Pharmaceuticals can make their money by contracting to supply the drugs we need and using branding if they really, truly must.

The profit motive only creates a desire to create profit. And in a closed market, you have to take what you can get at the rate they demand. There is no free market in drugs so you can’t shop around, so how can we be convinced that the profit motive will produce better results than we’re seeing now?

DigDug says:

That's why India declared the patents invalid...

And licensed their in country pharmaceutical companies to make generics of whatever is needed in country.

Too bad the retards @ big pharma are so greedy, they could have continued to profit, not as high a margin (but who needs 3000% + profit margins), when 30% at 2+ billion customers would more than make up for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That's why India declared the patents invalid...

but who needs 3000% + profit margins

People who’ve been enjoying a 2999% profit margin. No matter how absurdly overpaid people are, no matter how illegitimately money is made or how undeserved it may be, people will convince themselves that it is their due. They will believe not only that they earned it, but that it is their birthright, that it is their due, and that they are being taken advantage of and are owed more.

I understand your point about pharma increasing overall profit if they had played ball with India, but this almost seems to be a situation where corporate profits have taken a back-seat to psychology: the entire industry thinks that it is entitled to everything it demands. It can’t conceive of a world where law or logic might say otherwise.

TruthHurts says:

Really? Is that why one of my medications went UP by almost 50% in 5 years?

One of the medications I have to take to stay alive had a retail value of around 3700 for a 30 day supply when I started on them in 2009.

Now, 2014, the cost for the same medication is over 6700 for the same 30 day supply.

My out of pocket cost jumped by 300% the month that the Obama Care went active.

Costs are supposed to go DOWN over time after they’ve recouped the R&D costs, not go up. But no, big pharma does everything they can to maximize their profits and kill off anyone who cannot afford their expensive, with side-effects worse than the diseases they’re meant to treat, medications.

I have to have regular testing to make sure that the walls of my heart haven’t thinned out, and that my lungs aren’t filling with fluid so that the cancer drug I’m on doesn’t kill me in other ways.

So don’t tell me that Patents don’t prevent access to the drugs, as I know 2 other people with my same form of cancer who’s insurance companies will NOT pay for the medication because it costs too much. The only other viable form of treatment is to take prednisone, a steroid so bad that it will kill them within a few years when taken continuously. Known as the feel good drug, it slowly corrupts every system inside the human body causing the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs to fail over time.

Their insurance company will pay for the drug that will kill them slowly, to try and keep their cancer from killing them more quickly, but will NOT pay for a cancer drug, that in 95% of the patients that can take it, will put their cancer into remission, and keep it there for as long as they take it.

Now tell me that it isn’t because patents have prevented generics from being produced, and I’ll call you the liar that you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Really? Is that why one of my medications went UP by almost 50% in 5 years?

Epogen (epoetin alfa) is another such drug. Mostly used by renal and anemic patients, it is a synthetic form of the same hormone produced by the kidneys to induce the creation of red blood cells. This stuff costs $1,200/vial. In my case, that’s enough for one injection, and I get 4 per month. $57,600 per year. It’s estimated this one drug costs US patients $2 billion per year. That with the staggering costs of hemodialysis ($6400/treatment in my case, with 12 in-center or 24 at-home treatments per month) means we have to suckle at the government teat for the rest of our lives. Transplantation isn’t a cure, just another treatment, with the initial operation costing around $250,000 on the cheap end, and maintenance drugs costing as much as dialysis did. Our health care system needs a serious overhaul.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

I dare you to say that to TruthHurts. Go on, say it.

I’m sick and tired of the profit-first brigade, who claim that all govt. is bad and that advocating for tax-funded services makes me a statist socialist, or whatever. I’ll take sharing and caring over callous wealth worship any day, and you can call me what you want, though I prefer the term “Moderate Conservative Pirate.”

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Re: Re:

Pirating a movie is different from “pirating” medicine. Doing without a movie might mean that you’ll have nothing to do on Friday night, doing without life-saving medicine means you die.
I wonder how you’d feel if you were in that position. I really doubt you’d willingly roll over and die because Big Pharma says so.

DigDug says:

Re: Re: Re:

Since pirating a movie involves stamping your own physical media and selling them for profit, most pirating happens in shady areas or countries where it costs too much to buy them.

Downloading digital media isn’t pirating, never has been, never will be. It isn’t stealing either as the original content is still there, still owned by whomever had it.

It’s equivalent to pressing record on that old boom-box while listening to your favorite song on the radio, or while HBO was playing your favorite movie.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Now, now. The Pharmaceutical Industry used the same tried and true “method” in this research as it uses in all research done to disprove claims about the lack of efficacy and/or the lack of safety of its chemical compounds.

It gathers all of its paid scienticians together in a room labelled Research and they all reach into the big blue box labelled Evidence.

Since the box is always empty, the scienticians have to always conclude “That There Is ‘Zero Evidence’ That (Place claim to be dismisses here).

Its called The Scinetician Method and it always works.

Violynne (profile) says:

A few years ago, I was showing a friend visiting Indianapolis the downtown area. “There’s Monument Circle. There’s the government building. And that’s the Indiana Senate.”

He looked puzzled, and said, “The building says Eli Lilly”.

I said, “I know, but that’s where policy is made. If Indiana even thinks of passing a bill into law, it gets permission first.”

I wish I were joking.

GEMont (profile) says:

Hey there. Can you pick up that bar of soap for me.

“…even if it helped show the true colors of the current leadership of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Ah the resiliency of the American Victim!

I have to wonder, just how many times must an industry, or politician, or institution, or agency, SCREW over the American Public, before the American Public comes to the final realization that those folks are not their friends and that any new people taking over the reigns of those lying crooks must of necessity, also be just more lying crooks.

In fact, I wonder if there even is a maximum number of times Americans will take in up the ass before finally saying no, or at least stop bending over.

Apparently not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course the existence of a patent might cause difficulties with the free and unfettered access by persons to the specific chemical compound claimed in the patent. Thing is, however, a patent presents no restrictions on such persons accessing the many, many, many other chemical compounds having therapeutic efficacy for what ails them. IOW, a patent does not hinder access to medicine in general, but may in some circumstances present a hindrance with respect to a specific medicine.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So what you’re saying appears to be:

Joe needs Drug A because he has Disease A.

Joe cannot get Drug A because of Patent Restrictions.

However, Drug B, which is used for treatement of those with Disease B is readily available and so, Joe can buy and eat as much of Drug B as he wants.

So Joe should stop bitching even though Drug B, while imminently effective in the treatment of Disease B, has zero effect for those with Disease A, like Joe.

Did I miss anything??

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“… for virtually all illnesses there are multiple, beneficial therapies…including medications (i.e., alternate medications having “therapeutic efficacy”

So you’re now saying that “virtually” EVERY ailment has a bevy of readily available alternate remedies, and in your world, all remedies are equally effective against every ailment.

You really are quite simple aren’t you. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The fact you seem unable or unwilling to read comments to ascertain what they actually say suggests to me that you have not as yet mastered that skill or are simply not interested in any comment that does not neatly conform to your world view of “big, bad, meanie businesses like pharmaceutical companies”.

Try taking your illogic logic to the next level and apply it in any number of other scenarios involving other products and services. For example, the very best and most highly successful doctors charge more, making their services beyond the reach of most potential patients. Are you prepared to condemn them with the same level of disgust being directed at drug companies? What about manufacturers of durable medical goods? What about other industries outside of the medical field? For some reason you seem offended that cost even enters into the equation of daily transactions. It seems almost as if you are seriously advocating that if anyone comes up with a better mousetrap, then by God everybody has an absolute right to secure such a mousetrap for their personal use, and the business, professional and personal interests of the mousetrap creator be damned. Quite a world you seem to advocate.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

GEMont: “ But I suspect childish insults are all I’m gonna get from this point forward, so have a nice day.

And of course, you fail to disappoint.


“The fact you seem unable or unwilling to read comments to ascertain … of “big, bad, meanie businesses like pharmaceutical companies.”

And the fact that you are unable or unwilling to examine your own comment against my inquiries, but instead redirect and obfuscate in a manner reminiscent of a pompous scholar forced to deal with an unwashed peasant, suggests you are simply blowing smoke, because you know damn well that the restrictions are not due to any cost return analysis, but are due to simple greed, which is obviously the way it should be, in your opinion, given the rest of your screed.

“It seems almost as if you are seriously advocating that if anyone … professional and personal interests of the mousetrap creator be damned. “

Actually, I was commenting entirely on your claim – that the capitalist restrictions imposed by maximalist copyright, that make effective drugs unavailable to those who need them, is AOK in your book because there are many less effective drugs available to those poor sods who just don’t have the cash for the good shit.

I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the lesson in Randian Rights Philosophy, and the lovely walk through the garden of Might Makes Right.

You have also successfully convinced me that further dialogue between us is pointless and would represent nothing more than wasted space, if that was your intention.

So again, have a nice day.

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