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Brazil Voids Merck Patent On AIDS Drug 765

Posted by kdawson
from the developing-world-revolt dept.
JoeBackward writes "Merck has this useful anti-AIDS drug Elfavirenz, and Brazil has lots of poor people with AIDS. So, after trying really hard to get Merck to cooperate on pricing, the Brazilian government has decided to take a 'compulsory license' to the patent, and get the drug from a factory in India. This compulsory license is basically a way to take the patent by eminent domain." This move gives Brazil one more thing in common with Thailand, both of which have blocked YouTube. Thailand's compulsory licensing of Elfavirenz and Plavix has landed the country on the US's watch list for piracy.
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Brazil Voids Merck Patent On AIDS Drug

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  • by drfrog (145882) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:23PM (#19002569) Homepage
    it s nice to see humanity win one for a change

    who can really put a price on that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:26PM (#19002593)
    Yeah, because why should anyone be allowed to recoup the massive costs they incured in researching, developing, manufacturing, testing, and getting the drug approved?

    After all, everyone knows that all of these drugs just grow on trees.
  • youtube (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gargletheape (894880) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:27PM (#19002597)
    you know what else Brazil and Thailand have in common? A boisterous tourism industry and hot girls. Seriously, what does youtube have to do with this story?
  • bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by teknopurge (199509) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:27PM (#19002599) Homepage
    this is not about humanity. the only reason this drug even exists is becuase money was able to be spent on R&D to create or discover the compound. Brazil has just put another nail in the coffin of innovation by this move: if a company cannot make money from a discovery or invention the amount of both will decline.
  • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:29PM (#19002625) Journal
    I have to agree on this one. Normally I'm against things like this because I personally feel that the more this stuff happens the less likely people are to work towards something, the whole private property issue. In this case, however, the pricing was just absurd, the company was not trying to make a slight profit by helping people (which I'm fine with) but way overcharging them. Good for Brazil.

    Sure, it cost them a lot to make it. But this isn't a drug whose need is going to go away any time soon and trying to remake your investment quickly means that poor people can't buy something that can save their life. Crix whatever should've been priced in such a way so that 10-12 years down the road they began making a profit, not so that they start making profit almost immediately. I mean, what investor wouldn't invest in an AIDS drug just because they're not likely to recoup their losses within a year? We all know AIDS is going to be around for a while, cut your prices so that more people can get it.

    But hey, just my opinion. Hopefully Brazil can start getting cheap crix out in their country and save some lives.
  • by drfrog (145882) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:29PM (#19002627) Homepage
    im not saying they shouldnt, but there is a difference between making a profit and gouging poor people for a drug they need

  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:29PM (#19002629)
    ... but it took capitalism to create the formula for the drug in the first place ... without capitalism _nobody_ would get this drug. so i'd say its not humanity vs capitalism, rather humanity benefiting from capitalism, and brazil and thailand aren't helping any.
  • by drfrog (145882) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:31PM (#19002657) Homepage
    capitalism itself didnt create it

    knowledge did

    peopel living in the capitalist state took advantage of the fact they had that knowledge

  • nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:32PM (#19002663) Journal
    what happened was this: merck had the AIDS drug and Brazil tried to negotiate it at what they could afford, merck declined, Brazil then told merck to screw themselves and got the drug anyway. it isn't so much an attack on merck's ability to make money off its own research as it is the idiot practice of denying DYING people medical treatment for the sake of said profit. moral of story: better to negotiate then to be bypassed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:33PM (#19002687)
    Because they're too busy farming your coffee and sewing your clothes for $3 a month?

    Idiot.
  • by jalet (36114) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:35PM (#19002703) Homepage
    if the costs were so huge and if they wanted to recoup these massive costs without sacrificing human beings at the same time, you wouldn't see this industry WASTE tons of money on things like congresses in 5 stars hotels all around the world, champagne and wonderful food for even the smallest meeting, and things like that, would you ?

    And yes, I know what I'm talking about.

    This industry, much like the MAFIAA, deserve to die. Human beings don't.
  • IP vs. Humanity (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:36PM (#19002705) Journal
    This just highlights in a new way, how far wrong we have gone with our patient system. Imagine if Salk had demanded a premium for his polio vaccine, the US government would have taken it under the same premises. The same if the patient holder for Biothrax had withheld rights from the US government for the anthrax vaccine in 2002. But wait those are brown people, foreigners dying from a disease with a social stigma, so let's call them thieves.
  • by TimTucker (982832) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:36PM (#19002713) Homepage
    As they say: necessity is the mother of innovation. As long as we have a need for medicine, someone's going to do the research to look for it. It may become less easy to justify spending millions in funding and make millions in profits off of discoveries, but that doesn't mean that innovation will stop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:39PM (#19002749)
    This move gives Brazil one more thing in common with Thailand, both of which have blocked YouTube.

    This is a warped comparison... AIDS will hill hundreds of millions of people in our lifetime. YouTube is a floofy website. AIDS will still be a problem in 20 years. YouTube probably won't exist.

    How are these two situations related, exactly? Are you trying to make some comparison because both involve "Intellectual Property"? If so, you failed.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:41PM (#19002769)
    How are they going to recoup these costs from penniless AIDS patients? Property rights should only be enforced when the benefit of the owner from keeping the property is at least loosely comparable to advantages withheld from the public. Weather it's generic drugs for the poor, public access to privately owned scenic land, freely using commercial software for education or picking leftover fruit after the harvest, your property rights are not always absolute. Even government relocates people on the path of a new highway or in an unsustainable disaster zone.
  • by haluness (219661) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:42PM (#19002773)
    > Rather than making the composition of the drug open, don't release what's actually in it,
    > and just test it as a 'black box,' show empirically through tests that it's effective and
    > reasonably safe, but dope the actual pills with a lot of random substances that make it
    > difficult to reverse-engineer

    I really can't forsee any form of DRM for chemical compounds. It's quite like DRM for music - at one point the music has to be played on a speaker. Similarly, if you're going to make a drug, you're going to have to give the pill out at which point you have the whole field of analytical chemistry (mass spec, HPLC etc) at your disposal!

    Furthermore, adding random substances to it, doesn't really hinder the identification process - they'd just show up as separate peaks on the spectrum. In addition randomly adding substances to a drug mixture would probably mess up pharmacokinetics which would have to be restudied all over again.

    Unfortunately the chemical world is a little bit messier than the digital world :)
  • by frakfrakfrak (1049468) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:42PM (#19002779)

    So let me ask the obvious question that no one else will. Why didn't Brazil do the research, create it's own AIDS drug, and accept liability for any consequences?
    Because while they did that, thousands of people would get AIDS and thousands of people would die. Considering just how much of meds research is actually done on the government's dime through grants or work done in universities, the whole "We'd never have money for research if we weren't charging you your median income to live" aspect of AIDS drugs is pure evil.

    Besides, even though they're not White Anglo-Saxon American Protestants, most Brazilians are people (some, of course, are special haircuts in your no-no zone), and if I have to choose between a lot of people dying and a bunch of lying thieves (converting gov't research money into private intellectual property for mega-corporations is evil in my opinion) getting richer, well, I'm going to pick the people (some of whom are always also going to be lying thieves), because I'm like that.

    Honestly, though, it's the 21st century. As a race, humanity can do so much more for each other than this. Shrill cries of, "Let's give Merck our cash!" or "Pure capitalism would have fixed this!" just bother me. Capitalism is a good system, but it isn't magical, and we should try to avoid using it to price out a human life, or its span. Can we always avoid that? No, we're not on Star Trek. But it's nice to occasionally give it a try.
  • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:43PM (#19002791) Homepage Journal
    Brazil wanted to give them some money.
    Mereck said no so Brazil took it to save the lives of its people.
    Considering its a global company, They should have taken Brazils offer and looked to Europe and N.America to recover costs.
    OTOH, since Merick wouldn't sell to Brazil anyways, there not actually loosing money now, are they?
  • by The Analog Kid (565327) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:43PM (#19002801)
    It's okay, they will just do what they always do when countries around have price controls on medication, charge people in the US more than everyone else.
  • by spineboy (22918) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:43PM (#19002803) Journal
    These countries are treading on a slippery slope. At what point is it OK now to not pay for the hard work of other people, or to begin to directly steal from them? If this happens enough the company will go bankrupt as correctly pointed out by the parent comment. There will always be someone else who can justify why their need is to get/steal/borrow what they need to a greater and greater extent.
    Yes I know that giant pharm firms spend a lot on advertising, but it also costs approximately one Billion dollars to get a single new drug to the marketplace (that's $1,000,000,000 !!)

    Pricing is a problem for the third world countries, probably because it takes so many resources to make that product.
    Now please pay attention - I'm not saying that Brazil is unjustified in it's taking of the drug and helping those people, but rather that there needs to be some limits so that this behavior is not abused, and ruins it for everyone. This sounds like a good problem for the U.N.
  • by trout007 (975317) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:45PM (#19002817)
    AIDS will be around a lot longer than the patent for this drug. They have to recoupe their expenses for development and marketing before the patent runs out. I would like to see the whole patent system done away with. But you would also have to do away with the FDA and let people be free and responsible for what they put in their body. But that's just me.
  • All I see now is a huge shift to National Socialism
    no that's not socialism. [...] the type of government your thinking of is called 'fascism'
    National Socialism is composed of fascism with racial nationalism [wikipedia.org].
  • by slughead (592713) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:52PM (#19002879) Homepage Journal
    it s nice to see humanity win one for a change

    who can really put a price on that?


    *Raises hand* OOh! I can!

    The number of years added to the lives of the Brazilians who get this drug at a reduced cost will be subtracted several times over from future AIDS victims who would have otherwise have had better drugs available due to the added research dollars.

    In short, adding 10 days more life now = subtracting 20 days more life in the future (arbitrary but realistic figure). People who want to ban patents on drugs are either selfish or stupid, because they are basically killing future generations by choking off pharmaceutical research dollars.

    Oh, and by the way, this is not the first time Brazil has done this with AIDS medications. I'm not sure why it's getting press now... Just thought I'd add that.

    Honestly, the populations in Brazil who would most benefit from AIDS medication probably wouldn't have the scratch to pay the full price. However, this WILL lead to other countries doing the same thing. If enough of them do, people will stop investing in pharmaceutical research because there wont be any ROI.

    What the drug companies should be able to do is sell these to Brazil at cost, as a form of price discrimination. However, if that were to happen, AIDS victims in the US and other countries who could otherwise afford to pay the real cost of these meds would simply fly to Brazil, pick up their prescriptions, and fly back (which would be cheaper).

    By saying that these drugs are "counterfeit", the American drug companies can keep these cheap drugs from coming back to the United States at these low prices, which would be disastrous for drug companies, and indeed, future generations afflicted with AIDS. In truth, the drug companies may not care that Brazil does this, though they'll certainly try and keep 'rich' western countries from doing the same thing.

    Whether the companies are good or evil is irrelevant, because they have no choice but to sell these drugs at the same price in every country. Just look at what the [relatively] rich Americans do: buy from Canada and Mexico. If we made this practice illegal (which I think is wrong, but bare with me here), only then could we see the true colors of American Pharma. They probably would be 'giving it away' in the 3rd world nations, if for PR if nothing else.

    Somebody has to pay for the future of pharmacology, and the U.S. looks to be it.
  • by MrNaz (730548) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:54PM (#19002897) Homepage

    Not all moves to place fetters on the free market are the result of the hidden agendas of slavering, bloody thirsty autocrats, despite the media's attempt to make it seem so. The free market will not feed the poor, or give them medication or save their lives, as none of those activities are profitable. Ideas that save human life are the property of every human alive, and I will fight until the day I die the rights of people to unreasonably profit from or withhold those ideas from humankind. Those of you about to jump in with "but who'd pay for the research" arguments, pull your pants back up and get away from me. I've heard them all before and written on the subject [mrnaz.com] many times. If our society cannot place a value on the saving of life itself, then we need to have a good, long, hard look at the belief that our society is the greatest one on Earth.

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:54PM (#19002905) Homepage Journal
    Won't happen, because the companies will spend a lot of money on lobbying against it. If it was created, it would mean the end of them, so they'd do whatever in their power to prevent it.
  • by emarkp (67813) <slashdot.roadq@com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:55PM (#19002925) Journal
    No, the research always comes from a basic need to supply people with medicines at a price that will let the producers feed their families.

    I'm always confused by people who see it as humane to steal from one group to give to another. Maybe you could give your own money to the people who need it to pay for the drugs they need?

    (Oh, and I love how my post has been moderated as a Troll, simply because someone disagrees with me. That comment was on topic, not trolling.)
  • by jellie (949898) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:58PM (#19002953)
    Exactly. And to those people who argue for the free market (competition, profits, whatever): the pharmaceutical/biotech/healthcare is NOT a free market! There is literally no competition, and no regulation on pricing. It is true that a mere fraction of drugs will ever get approved, and it costs billions of dollars to do the research and the clinical trials.

    But there is nothing that prevents a company from setting insanely high prices because most of the wealthy patients are shielded from the real cost. National healthcare is a great thing, but we must address the price gouging because the marginal cost to produce each pill is minimal, yet the costs are in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. I can pay $5 for my drug, but my (parent's) employer will cover the other several hundred dollars. And doctors usually won't encourage generics or alternatives, because it may strain their relationship with the patient. Would you really hesitate to get Abraxane, the FDA-approved brand-name drug at over $4000 a dose, or Taxol, the generic version of the same molecule that costs $150? Thankfully, Brazil knows what's in its citizen's best interests, at least in this case.

    I believe the pharmaceuticals spend about half of their money on marketing (which includes direct-to-consumer advertising, marketing to doctors, marketing to hospitals, and others), not R&D or those poor, poor lobbyists and congresspeople.
  • by dynamo52 (890601) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:59PM (#19002955)
    I see that you've been reading the leaflets that the pharmaceuticals have been spreading for years. The truth is that most of the actual research is conducted in labs that receive HUGE amounts of public funding. The the drug companies greatest contribution comes in the development of manufacturing processes.
  • by modecx (130548) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:00PM (#19002959)
    And Amen to giving more encouragement to the drug industry to further ignore the needs of the developing world.

    They were already largely ignored anyway. Was it possible to make and market these drugs at a price point that could be accessible to people who need it? Surely. That's the entire reason why they have an Indian company lined up to produce it. No, they would rather have their ten thousand percent markup, and a monopoly on the market for their seven years, while everyone suffers.

    The funniest part of this is that Merck now gets shit nothing, because they wouldn't play ball. They could have had a nice piece of the pie, but now they have pie in the face because they were too greedy.

    I think it's an interesting thing how Canada can get these stupid drug companies to push their prices down 50% less than we can buy them in the US in some cases, and yet the drug companies are in a shit storm frenzy to compete with the other companies who market similar products, so their product will be sold to Canadians... But I guess that's what capitalism is all about. It's funny that the last bastion of true corporation on corporation capitalism in the US might very well be represented by a foreign countries' socialized medical program, don't you think?

    Good fucking job Brazil. If I could give a country a pat on the back, you'd get it. Bravo.
  • by Izago909 (637084) <tauisgod@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:03PM (#19002997)

    The drugs were developed under the expectation that someone would pay good money for them. Perhaps next time Brazil's poor infect themselves with something, Merck won't bother.
    It's a mentality like this that will lead to the downfall of the human race. Disease knows no race, religion, nationality, or income bracket. Have you ever watched a person you care for waste away because they couldn't afford the medication they needed? I thought not.
    Sorry buddy, the number of poor in this world by far exceed the number of WASPS. You are a minority.
  • by MojoRilla (591502) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:04PM (#19002999)
    Stop believing big pharma's FUD.

    There are several significant factors undercutting this supposed billion dollar price tag. The first is that AIDS research has received significant public funding, and second is that antiretroviral drugs have the shortest time to approval of any class of drugs, approximately half the time of normal clinical trials (the mean time for antiretrovirals is 44.6 months, compared to an industry average of 87.4 months).

    See this report [thebody.com] from Doctors Without Boarders for more information.
  • by master0ne (655374) <emberingdeadN05P4M @ g m a i l .com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:05PM (#19003021)
    and when you get sick with a FATAL disease, that they have a treatment for, but are asking $10,000 a month for the treatment, thats NOT coverd under insurance, maby you'll change your point of view, we have the benifit of not living in a 3rd world country, and having decent jobs. The price there charging is the equivlant of highway robery here... even the drug underground here doesnt usualy make much more than $2-$3 per pill for illegal painkillers (loritabs)... why should a legitiment goverment have to pay top dollar for a drug that will greatly help their population out.... a profit is one thing, but if there selling the drug to thiland for about 1/2 of what there willing to sell it to Brazil for (and you can bet there still turning some profit on thiland), then a 100% markup is unjustified.... (especially considering the massive quantity they want... there not asking just for 100 or 1,000 pills, there gonna need MILLIONS of pills... a guarenteed sale, if the price is right)
  • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:06PM (#19003029) Homepage Journal

    Yes, because it didn't cost anything to do all the tons and tons of research and testing (not to mention the cost of education for all the scientists) to produce the drug.
    Let's turn that around: Merck did not pay one single dime for the education of those scientists. The US taxpayers did. Merck did not pay one single dime for all the basic research needed to develop the drug. The US taxpayers did. Why should Merck be allowed to steal money from the US taxpayers?

    Here's some basic reading for you:
    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2007/04/21/opinion /opinion_30032324.php [nationmultimedia.com]
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17244 [nybooks.com]
    http://archive.salon.com/tech/htww/2006/01/13/drug _patents/index.html [salon.com]
    http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&t ask=view&id=1065&Itemid=8 [cepr.net]
  • by CokeBear (16811) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:06PM (#19003033) Journal
    At what point is it OK now to not pay for the hard work of other people



    The people who did the work got paid. Its the corporation who is getting ripped off, not any people.

  • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:08PM (#19003041) Homepage Journal

    ... but it took capitalism to create the formula for the drug in the first place ...
    Not really. It took a lot of greed and gaming of the system. If that's capitalism, well count me out.

    Here's some basic reading for you on how Big Pharma is gaming the patent system for their own short-sighted gain:
    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2007/04/21/opinion /opinion_30032324.php [nationmultimedia.com]
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17244 [nybooks.com]
    http://archive.salon.com/tech/htww/2006/01/13/drug _patents/index.html [salon.com]
    http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&t ask=view&id=1065&Itemid=8 [cepr.net]
  • by Tickletaint (1088359) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:09PM (#19003049) Journal
    Yep. And it's not as if Merck couldn't have predicted this would happen. They're smart enough to have factored the risk of this patent being voided into their decision to pursue an AIDS drug. They gambled, and in this case they lost, but they weren't completely blindsided. It happens.
  • by master0ne (655374) <emberingdeadN05P4M @ g m a i l .com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:10PM (#19003063)
    oh, and one last point about the profit... the knock off drugs there buying cost $0.45 per pill, and you can bet your fat white ass that that company is turning a profit, $0.65 cents for the brand name which respects copyright is reasonable, hell even $0.85 wouldnt be too bad, but to charge more than double what it costs to manufacture the drug and still turn a profit ($0.90) to me, is just wrong...
  • by ccarson (562931) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:17PM (#19003133)
    Stop, slow down and think. Everyone's first reaction is to steal the drugs/patents because it's in the name of life and death. But when the dust settles, what's really going on is you're cheating the very system that developed the drugs in the first place. True humanitarianism is when you coddle what works (a system that provides incentives for people and companies to develop new drugs) that which provides the benefit of saving lives.

    It's no different than saying to yourself at midnight in a smoky bar, "I've had 5 beers. 1 more would make me feel so good" and not taking into consideration the hang over if you drink that one more.
  • by fourchannel (946359) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:20PM (#19003159) Homepage
    Oh it sure is nice not to be born with aids, especially when your mother got infected when pregnant. Or how about when the guerilla soldiers come to town and rape people. Or what about sheer ignorance of modes of transmittal. It sure is nice to live in a country that makes it very clear the dangers of aids, I'm not so sure Brazillians have that luxury.
  • by bidule (173941) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:28PM (#19003239) Homepage

    Patents are government-granted monopolies. It is not an absolute right and has to be balanced against the need of the People.

    Reading this news as a fight between corporate greed and governmental greed is the wrong way to look at that. Right or wrong, you try to choose the lesser evil. Everyday the little citizen get crushed for reason of State, for once it is a big pharma that pays the price.

    BTW, the pharma spammer are quick on the button today. Disgraceful.
  • by Microlith (54737) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:31PM (#19003279)

    If American wanted to really do what's best for the world and its self then it should be spending trillions on things like developing vaccines and then giving the technology away for free.


    Indeed. And when we're bankrupt we can go back to the rest of the world for help, right?

    Right?
  • by laughingcoyote (762272) <{moc.eticxe} {ta} {lwohtsehgrab}> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:32PM (#19003289) Journal

    Absolutely silly. But it's a good measure here. Looks like Big Pharma's line of shit is considerably more effective than the RIAA and MPAA. Here's hoping they don't catch on.

    Here's the reality of the situation. The biggest expense to Big Pharma is not research and development (which mainly takes place in universities, including a lot of public ones. Big Pharma does not fund those. You and I do.) It is not testing (and that could be handled entirely by the FDA, without their involvement at all. A lot of it already is. Big Pharma does not pay for the FDA. You and I do.) Their biggest expense is not manufacturing the pharmaceuticals, which, as should be obvious here, can be done pretty cheaply. Their biggest expense is wining, dining, and schmoozing doctors to use their medicines. To advertise on TV, to get patients to push doctors into getting them whatever medication that is. And to pay overpaid executives.

    Let's cut out the middleman, and one of the biggest expenses here-the millions-per-year CEOs. Fund the universities well to develop the drugs. They will develop drugs for Third-World maladies, once the impetus to "make something you can sell" is gone. Have the FDA entirely in charge of testing, and farming out production-just production-to corporate entities. There we go.

    Under the current system, there's far more incentive to look for treatments rather than cures. A treatment is a lifelong paycheck, a cure is a one-time payment. There's far too much impetus to develop Viagra rather than treatments for diseases that kill millions in poor countries. There's far too big a temptation to hold back a slightly-improved formulation until the patent on the current one is about to expire, and to use it to extend the patent far longer than it was intended to last. If that system collapses, I won't shed too many tears. Something better will replace it.

  • by mikkelm (1000451) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:32PM (#19003291)
    Yeah, because people with AIDS don't have children, and no one, especially the poor, are forced into prostitution.
  • by SillyNickName4me (760022) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:38PM (#19003353) Homepage
    Yes, because lord knows a bunch of politicians are best folk to decide how much 'profit' a company needs, as opposed to the market (which can be cruel but a whole lot less corruptible than your average socialist wannabe).

    That argument would work if the market was actually free. As long as those same politicians are needed to have those nice patents, they also happen to get a say in things.
  • by bheer (633842) <rbheer@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:41PM (#19003387)
    Looking at it from Brazil's POV, 45c from India vs 65c from a reluctant Merck -- I can see why they thought 65c was a good deal. Although as I mentioned in another post, it seems it was more of a "fulfil our demands or we do bad things to you" than a negotiation. And yes, this will hurt Brazil especially as it tries to develop its own drug-making expertise (which the article suggested).

    If there are lessons here, I guess it is that the 3rd world is f*cked as the developed world can pay beacoup $$$ for health care and drugs. In the long run, this will result in a gradual siphoning off of the best talent even as 3rd world countries want to spend less on things that cost millions (if not billions) to produce.

  • by mcpkaaos (449561) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:42PM (#19003395)
    but there's a lot of people inside drug companies that give a lot of shit about people

    I didn't say a word about 'people inside drug companies'. The people researching and developing drugs are not the same as those who decide who gets them or at what cost.

    In any case, this [wikipedia.org] is what drug lobbyists get you. You can drop the angel drug companies vs. evil HMO routine. It's old.

    Essentially, when you want the drug companies to give away a drug,

    You should re-read the article.
  • by kmac06 (608921) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:57PM (#19003517)
    From your link: "This quantity was far greater than the supply, and Bayer lacked the capacity to produce such a large quantity in a timely manner."

    Sounds like the manufacturers couldn't produce the drugs, so the government stepped in to ramp up production. Not exactly what you made it sound like.
  • by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:02PM (#19003549)

    It sure is nice to live in a country that makes it very clear the dangers of aids, I'm not so sure Brazillians have that luxury.
    While I agree with the overall point your post makes, I'd like to tell you that Brazil has an outstanding AIDS policy, one that has been praised by the WHO (called OMS here - Organização Mundial de Saúde) and copied by numerous other countries. Brazil's policy includes free distribution of condoms, distribution of clean needles to addicts of intravenous drugs, and free access to the best and most modern drugs. It also includes free HIV and STD testing, a service I've personally used a few times. I am not in a high risk group, but it's good to be sure. Further, the Brazilian government's AIDS policy includes education. I myself learned quite a bit from the people at the government health center near my apartment where I have gotten HIV tests. The test result is given by a counselor, and the counselor gave me a lot of information I didn't previously have about STDs and HIV. Since I am highly educated and generally try to keep myself well-informed, I was surprised at how much basic information I didn't know before the counselor told me.
    So in Brazil, in fact, the dangers of AIDS are made very clear by the excellent educational portion of the AIDS policy. Further, unlike the USA, insane religious fanatics don't have the power to push idiocy like the "abstinence only" sex education pushed in a lot of places in the USA despite having been repeatedly proven not to decrease teen pregnancy at all, but proven to lead to increased incidence of STDs, including AIDS. So let me bounce it right backatcha and say it sure is nice to live in a country where the public interest is placed above the sensitivities of lunatics who want to impose their beliefs on others, even if imposition of those beliefs can be a death sentence.
  • by Durzel (137902) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:03PM (#19003563) Homepage
    I have nothing against capitalism as a rule, and I'm not naive enough to believe in some twee fantasy World where life-saving medications are free for everyone all around the World. That said, setting a price point on what is an ESSENTIAL medication of $1.59 per pill when the same company already sells the same product to another country at $0.65 per pill is disgusting. Merck are (or were) essentially holding the Brazilian peoples lives to ransom.

    If Merck can afford to sell the product to Thailand for $0.65 and still make a profit (clearly as an Indian company can sell it for $0.45 and turn a profit themselves) then there is no reason whatsoever other than pure capitalistic greed why they could not have given the same offer to the Brazilian government. Don't forget we're not talking about the variable domain costs of marketing and staffing, the government is the customer - how the Brazilian government then choose to distribute/market the treatment is their decision and at their cost.

    There are a great many products around the World that are sold for different prices to different regions, but in practically all cases you can permit the corporations involved some latitude simply because the products they're selling are luxury or otherwise non-essential. Gouging a customer with a 300%+ markup on a life-saving drug when you know the customer/market HAS to have it is disgusting.

    Let's not forget that the research dollars that went into developing this particular drug came from U.S citizens.

    I don't think this is a sign of "erosion of respect in American patents", this is after all the first time the Brazilian government has even invoked the power of "eminent domain".
  • by M. Baranczak (726671) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:07PM (#19003599)
    Yes, because lord knows a bunch of politicians are best folk to decide how much 'profit' a company needs, as opposed to the market

    In this case, the market is the one doing the deciding. The Brazilians are going with the lowest bidder. So what's the problem?
  • by king-manic (409855) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:14PM (#19003663)
    Brazil isn't exactly poor. Badly mismanaged but not "poor". It's a fairly large economy. This whole ideas that everyone outside of the west is the "third world" is kind of silly. The term itself is related tot he cold war originally which has no meaning now. I know it's now a reference to developing countries but thats kind of a fluffy definition too. What are they developing too? It's sort of a ethnocentric term, full of hubris. Your not like me so you must be a few categories down. Is china third world? India? How about the Ukraine? /rant
  • bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:15PM (#19003669)
    the Brazilian government has decided to take a 'compulsory license' to the patent, and get the drug from a factory in India. This compulsory license is basically a way to take the patent by eminent domain.

    A "compulsory license" is not the same as "taking a patent", it's a compulsory license, as the name implies.

    Furthermore, the term "eminent domain" simply doesn't apply to patents because patents aren't "private property". Patents are temporary monopolies granted by the government for a specific purpose, and revoking that grant when the patent doesn't accomplish its purpose is not the same as taking away "private property". The only thing the government is ultimately obligated to observe in the granting and revocation of patents is that it is done non-discriminatorily.

    Trying to equate a patent grant with private property is ideological bullshit; don't fall for it.
  • by fourchannel (946359) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:15PM (#19003675) Homepage
    Wow, well I'm really impressed with Brazil, and even more pissed off at my own country (USA). But people are people, regardless of their local or country, and this goes to show that our current US government needs some serious reform.
  • by Frangible (881728) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:15PM (#19003677)
    Humanity didn't win one. To develop and screen drug candidates, and do human trails (of which a low percentage ever make it past the preliminary stage) is fantastically expensive. The patent protection for drugs is very short-term and among other things, is incentive for the very large costs of developing the drug. So... sure, in this case, poor people get AIDS drugs. But if the company knows that pouring millions into AIDS drugs is just going to get their work stolen, they're not going to research AIDS drugs in the future, because of the huge, huge costs involved of doing human trials of drugs. Now, perhaps you could argue the NIH should step in with funding and support research, development, and human trails of AIDS drugs instead. Unfortunately, while the NIH does a lot, that kind of thing is really beyond their ever-decreasing budget. Do Americans demand better NIH budgets, instead of doing things like... supporting wars? Nope. Americans don't lobby and push for it. And so the only people left to develop AIDS drugs is pharmaceutical corporations. Further, almost every pharmaco will give drugs away for free if you meet income requirements. If individual poor Brazilians were to fill out the form on their website, their lack of health insurance/coverage and low income would get them drugs for free. This does not, however, apply to governments purchasing drugs. Go to ANY drug company website-- you will find free patent medication forms. Frankly, the drug companies are the only ones who can develop these drugs until Americans demand better NIH and public health funding (which Americans generally don't do or care about), they give them away for free if you meet income requirements, and need to recoup the huge, massive development costs. If they don't, guess what happens to new drug development? Humanity didn't win here. Not by a long shot. Nor did capitalism. What won here was greed and ignorance. Push and lobby for better public health funding, or accept the reality of the situation.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:31PM (#19003821)
    Remind me again why ANY health-care activity should be for-profit. ANY. Band-aids to heart surgery.

    Because the government is so good at running things?

  • by MvD_Moscow (738107) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:34PM (#19003849)
    WTF? Are you just making all this shit up? Do you have any evidence to prove your point? Corporate accounts showing how unprofitable Europe/Canada is? Anything at all?
  • by cirby (2599) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:35PM (#19003857)
    The only company that could make it under license could only make a certain amount per year, and had no capacity to ramp up. They screwed around, claiming they could (but did nothing in particular). If they'd stepped forward and produced enough for the need, the US government would have happily paid the price.

    The compulsory license wasn't about cost. It was about capacity. And the US DID pay a license fee to the company, instead of outright theft, as Brazil is doing.

    On the other hand, with the amounts involved, if it was just a matter of a billion dollars to develop an AIDs drug, why didn't Brazil create their own and license it for free?

    Oh, yeah - that billion dollars was for a SUCCESSFUL drug. They kinda left out the other hundred compounds they looked at, and the ten to twelve they actually tested, before the drug companies found that one drug that worked.

    Then you get the ones that work, but turn up side effects when they get past trials. Vioxx, for example. major drug, well-liked by 99% of its users, and it wasn't until after they got it out into the open market that the (theoretical) side effects were noticed - and they were, truly, minor for pretty much everyone (tiny increases in health risks, and no actual deaths or injuries tied to the drug). And it was banned. Huge loss for the company.

    Total actual cost to find a high-quality, high RISK new drug for a major disease, with full trials and liability coverage? Closer to five or TEN billion dollars...

    Cost to produce some of these drug combinations? That's another story. Some of these chemicals take huge investments in machinery to even make, and the precursor chemicals alone put the price at ten to twenty cents per pill. Actual manufacturing can push the cost to simply produce one pill for some drugs into the multi-dollar range.
  • by ccarson (562931) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:38PM (#19003887)
    The problem with what you suggest is that once you make this public system, someone will start a company and use their profits to pay the best public researcher more money to work for them. The reason capitolism works is because of competition and incentive. In a public scenario, there's no incentive to work hard. Your checks will always be there and you'll live a modest life and have a modest retirement fund. People aren't like that though. It's more appealing for someone to work for the private sector when they'll make twice as much and there's the chance that hard work and a little luck could spell wealth.

    WEALTH = HARDER WORK = MORE DRUGS = MORE LIVES SAVED

    Never in the history of the world has a public system out performed a private/free market system. Never! In fact, I could name a lot of public societies that faulter (i.e. USSR and Cuba). The reason is because of incentive. No one wants to work hard when there's no reward. That's human nature.
  • by snottgoblin (957976) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:45PM (#19003939)
    it seems it was more of a "fulfil our demands or we do bad things to you" than a negotiation

    That sounds like "negotiation" to me. You negotiate to get the best deal and if you hold the upper hand you get to throw your weight around. That's probably what Merck would have done if there were no alternatives but them. All the talk about "good faith" in business is PR BS.
  • by RealGrouchy (943109) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:55PM (#19004027)
    Yes, and Brazil actually had the balls to stand up the the U.S. and refuse AIDS prevention money that was locked into abstinence-only programs.

    - RG>
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:13PM (#19004167)
    Remind me again why ANY health-care activity should be for-profit. ANY.

    Because it encourages more of it.

    To take an example a bit outside of the health care field, where do you think China would be if it had depended on non-profit donations rather than for-profit trade? Mutual self-interest is more sustainable than one-way charity.
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:15PM (#19004187) Homepage
    Because if you don't have this you get a system of healthcare paid for by the lowest bidder. Doctors that aren't really motivated to study and be the best at their craft. Long waiting lists for basic procedures. In other words, Canada.

    Like all things in life, an element of greed is involved with healthcare. Also like all things in life, that same greed drives competition which forces participants to be better than average. We're built that way down to the very cell (Ever see an amoeba engulf another one? You think they feel remorse? Competition is ingrained in their design).

    A family member of mine recently had major surgery. The tab was $100,000. For that high price, we got what has been argued one of the best adolescent surgeons in America. That man saved his life. If we didn't pay that price -- hell, if prices were not an issue -- would we have gotten the same level of commitment? Questionable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:20PM (#19004229)
    >> ...having been repeatedly proven not to decrease teen pregnancy at all, but proven to lead to increased incidence of STDs, including AIDS.

    References please?

    >> Further, unlike the USA, insane religious fanatics don't have the power to push idiocy like the "abstinence only" sex education ... the sensitivities of lunatics who want to impose their beliefs on others...

    Wow. SOMEBODY's got issues... Have you ever been IN the US (I hope not)? _I've_ never heard of a public policy where abstinence was the _only_ method pushed (what private institutions do is their own business - you don't have to go to them if you don't like their opinions, and you have no right to demand they cater to you if other free avenues are available).

    So then, I guess the "don't do it if you don't like the consequences"- type method isn't jake with you, huh? Fine then: run with scissors, shoot the BB-gun straight at the wall, mix clorox with ammonia when cleaning your house, drink and drive, tug on Superman's cape, whatever...
  • by Invidious (106932) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:26PM (#19004269)
    Actually, it seems more to me like "hey, you're selling it for $.xx here, why the hell can't we get it for that price? No? Oh, you wanna charge us double, just 'cause we're not them? Screw you, then." And I'm perfectly OK with that.
  • by Elektroschock (659467) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:30PM (#19004767)
    I don't really see the point of the US. Patent law adheres to the territorial principle. Brasil is free to request compulsory licensing. And everythings conforms TRIPs. In fact the USA did the same with Bayer vaccine.
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:10PM (#19005209)

    Which basically makes it state-sponsored IP-scoffing.

    You say that as if "IP" were a God-given right. It's not: "IP" is a collection of government entitlement programs, and what a government gives, a government can take away.

  • by iamnotaclown (169747) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:42PM (#19005559)
    In other words, Canada.

    Don't believe the FUD. Socialized health care is more efficient and cheaper per capita than your broken free market system:

    http://www.thestar.com/News/article/204163 [thestar.com]
  • by aurispector (530273) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:13PM (#19005855)
    It's ridiculous that these attitudes still persist. Every time I hear the claim that AIDS is the patient's fault I want to smack someone. There are at least a dozen ways people could contract the disease innocently and unknowingly. Sure, some people take risks and pay the price, but for instance in Africa the infection rates are so high because of ignorance about the disease, not because they are all moral failures.

    Merck does have a right to recoup their development costs-after all they have to save up for the next round of drug liability lawsuits like the vioxx fiasco.

    Still, they ought to play smarter and drop costs when countries try to negotiate price-the tactic of countries taking a compulsory license is a big weapon against which they have no counter. They could sell AIDS and malaria drugs cheap and look like angels whilst continuing to price gouge for boner pills. Problem solved!
  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@@@ovi...com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @09:05PM (#19006643) Homepage
    This is really total bull shit. Drug companies spend very little on R&D and most of their expenses are marketing, legal, insurance, and obscene bonuses for executives.

    Eminent domain is needed for cases like this where the need of the people outweigh the need for a ceo to trim his jet interior in pure gold.

    Good for Brazil

     
  • by spineboy (22918) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:02AM (#19007859) Journal
    Here's a Kaiser study - the$ billion dollar amount is only the R&D /FDA trial costs. What about when companies get sued by lawyers for billions of dollars for crap lawsuits - I.E. Dow chemical for silicone breast implants - bankrupted for no definite scientific evidence, and now people are using them again.

      The Vioxx lawsuit is costing Merck between 4 and 30 billion$ for some shaky scientific evidence. There were perhaps 300-400 people who doctors though had deaths DIRECTLY contributable to Vioxx - now remind you , many of these patients had crippling arthritis, pre-existing cardiac conditions, were over 70 years of age. I've had patients tell me that they take up to 4-5 times the recommended doses of pain medicine sometimes. Do you think the lawyers, or clients mention that - of course not - they want their easy money. Do you think many of those people would have died anyway? - probably.

    IF you are involved in medicine, and have some money, you will get sued. Every doctor and pharmaceutical company does, and the cost gets passed on to everyone else in the form of a 65 cent pill, as opposed to a 30 cent pill. THese class action lawsuits make multi millions for many law firms, because enough people in menial jobs don't want to work anymore , and are "injured, or think they are" (actual line I heard from an ambulance chaser commercial).

    Link to Kaiser/Tufts study supporting the billion dollar R&D/FDA cost per new drug below.
    http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_ind ex.cfm?DR_ID=17747 [kaisernetwork.org]
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:56AM (#19008131)

    God given right? where did that even come from?

    Because you called cancelling *one single* patent, an action that could save many thousands of lives (and which they are entitled to do under international law), "IP scoffing". Therefore, you must value the IP at least as dearly as the lives of the thousands who would perish.

    The only silver lining in all of this is that poor Brazilian patients will benefit

    A "silver lining" is an inferior outcome. I.e, you admit that helping those patients survive was OK, but preserving the pristine sanctity of IP would have been more desireable. Maybe you'd like to fly down there and explain your abstractions to dying patients: "You should be proud that you're giving up your life in order to drive up the market value of AIDS drugs. Your sacrifice could be generating cash flow that spurs research that could one day save the life of somebody else in a richer country, or maybe even solve their erectile dysfunction problems!"

  • by MrNaz (730548) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:02AM (#19008355) Homepage

    As for the 'value' of saving life, no one has the right to claim another's labor unearned for the sake of their own preservation.

    That is true in almost all situations. I can't steal your kidney because mine is failing, nor can I steal your ideas because my business is failing. However, if your idea can be used to save my life without taking anything away from you, buddy, you can be damn sure I'm not going to give two shits about the lawsuit you'll bring when I use it without a license. Poor people can't afford the medication anyway, so it's not like Merck is losing revenue, its just that their ideas are being used by people who otherwise wouldn't have access to the drug at all.

    If you think that the rules of property, especially intellectual property, should not be relaxed when human life is at stake or that life itself is a commodity that the free market should be allowed to value in monetary terms, then as I said in my original post: I will fight you tooth and nail until the day I die.

  • by nosferatu1001 (264446) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:09AM (#19008385)
    Personally I see nothing wrong with making money through prostitution is not a shameing occupation. AS long as you have free choice about it and it is properly regulated, then I see no problem. But then I peronally believe sex between consenting parties is fine.

    Finally, you made the classic straw man of suggesting because I liked ONE aspect therefore I must like it all. I agree Holland has problems, however it is a MUCH bettwer country to live in than the US. Much more free, in the ACTUAL versus religious rights idea of it....

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