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Patents Medicine

AIDS Drug Patent Revoked In US 357

Posted by kdawson
from the who-says dept.
eldavojohn writes "Doctors Without Borders is reporting that four patents for tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, a key AIDS/HIV drug, have been revoked on grounds of prior art. This is potentially good news for India & Brazil who need this drug to be cheap; if the US action leads to the patent being rejected in these countries, competition could drastically lower prices. But the ruling bad news for Gilead Sciences. The company has vowed to appeal. We discussed this drug before."
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AIDS Drug Patent Revoked In US

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:34AM (#22231836) Homepage
    Doctors Without Borders is reporting that four patents for tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, a key AIDS/HIV drug

    And here I was, thinking that they were trying to patent an obscure Russian playwright.
  • Cool... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:39AM (#22231846) Homepage
    Now if they stop granting patents on chemical compounds and their use and return to granting patents only on synthesis and novel purification methods that will be really worth cracking a bottle of bubbly.

    The chemical and pharmaceutical industry happily grew to become one of the biggest contributors to developed nations GDP using only this kind of protection. It does not really need anything more. Anything more is just protectionism and racketeering.
    • Yes something perverse has happened to the entire system since I was in an Aussie HS during the 70's. Wether it was law or conventional wisdom I don't know but I was taught that patents were not granted for discoveries, regardles of wether they were physical (drugs) or mathematical (software), these things were called trade secrets.

      The whole idea of the state regulating what I can put in my body gives me the creeps, it's the claims of suppliers and actions of the user that should be regulated.
    • by wall0159 (881759)
      While I agree with you in principle I see a problem in your reasoning:

      What about nanotechnological machines? Where is the line drawn between a complex "chemical" (like DNA), and a machine? It's very arguable that DNA is (at minimum) software (in which case copyright is more applicable than patents - except in countries with crap governments), but it's also arguable that DNA is a machine.

      Seems like a quagmire to me...
    • by samkass (174571)
      Are you unsatisfied with the rate of progress in medicine? I think the patenting has allowed unprecedented investment, leading to unprecedented medicinal advances.

      And I don't think the third world will benefit much from the loss of these patents. Most HIV drugs are already heavily discounted in those countries. Losing the patent just means less investment in future drugs.

  • Remind me again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:49AM (#22231890) Homepage
    why can't taxes pay for medical research? (not that I trust the government that much) but it seems like it's as much in the public good as good roads.
    • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:54AM (#22231908) Journal
      Call me a conspiracy nut, but I always imagined that no one gets rich curing a disease when they can sell you pills over the course of your lifetime instead.
      • by Divebus (860563)

        Call me a conspiracy nut, but I always imagined that no one gets rich curing a disease when they can sell you pills over the course of your lifetime instead.

        OK, you're a conspiracy nut. However, conspiracy nuts sometimes provide a shortcut to the truth and this is one of those cases.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You are correct. The best profit strategy is always to make sure problems are never solved. That's fine for technology but there are a number of things that logically, and morally, should not be left to private enterprise. Those things include the health and security of the nation.

        For those who are stuck to comprehend an alternative way consider the ancient Chinese model where you pay the doctor when you are well. If you get
        sick you stop paying, thus the doctor has a motive to keep you in good health.

        In a m
        • by brit74 (831798)
          For those who are stuck to comprehend an alternative way consider the ancient Chinese model where you pay the doctor when you are well. If you get sick you stop paying, thus the doctor has a motive to keep you in good health.
          So, if you have a terminal disease that where your life can be prolonged, but your disease cannot be cured - then the Chinese doctor refuses to help because he'll never get paid? There are no cures for AIDS or diabetes. There are drug cocktails that can prolong life for AIDS patient
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lost Engineer (459920)
        I was thinking about your conspiracy theory, and it occurred to me that many diseases have in fact been cured or at least prevented in the first world. I won't bore you with a list. It seems that there is some motive there. Also, I don't believe any virus has been cured, in the way that strep is curable. So while it could be a conspiracy, it seems to me that science merely lacks the means to stop what is possibly the world's most incurable virus.
      • If you *could* cure AIDS, you'd do it just to bypass the patents of those just "selling pills over the course of a lifetime instead". You'd not only corner the market on AIDS drugs (and even if you cure one guy, he's probably just going to run out and get it again from a different hooker next time) but anything else you researched would instantly be lapped up by every other company looking for your next gem, even if it's all turds from there on out. In the industry, fame gets you as much future money as y
        • by Bert64 (520050)
          Hookers don't want to have AIDS, and make quite a lot of money from their work... They would be among the first people to use an AIDS cure if one became available.

          How much money do you think big drugs companies would pay to bury your AIDS cure? If something like that got out, it would be a massive profit hit to some very large companies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bartab (233395)
        Yet at the same time, insurance companies are pressing for cures instead of "maintenance" regimes.

        So you're a conspiracy nut.
      • by Asic Eng (193332)
        Well this works as long as you control the market. If you don't then a competitor can come along and sell a cure - they might not get as much as you would have made, but they can still make a good profit. That's why monopolies and cartels are such a big impediment to progress.
      • Yet I am more inclined to believe they want to fund cures as much as anything else. Why? Because cures/vaccines would be the big money show. Think of it this way, if a company does come out with a drug that cures "X" you can be damn sure that if the cost of using it is seriously lower than treating it that it would become mandatory. Knowing how most things work you would need booster doses at intervals during your life. It also doesn't hurt if your cure whacks a competitors value.

        The added value to the
    • by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:09AM (#22231954)
      Taxes already pay for medical research in universities all over the world.

      The real problem in the US is that the government doesn't want to impose a price for drugs that everyone in the country can afford. And so, because the pharmaceuticals aren't put on a leash, they charge as much as they can, which maximizes profit instead of maximizing numbers of patients who can benefit.

      When two people can afford $10 and $100 respectively, the price is $100, which maximizes profit, instead of $10, which maximizes the number of people being helped.

      • by argStyopa (232550)
        Here's a quick quiz:

        Quiz question #1: Suppose you 'own' a research lab and a team of competent or even brilliant scientists.
        You are going to do research. Which research do you do - the research whose results you can price at whatever price it's worth, or the research whose results will immediately be appropriated by the government and your prices strictly controlled at an extremely low level? (And if you answer "I would do what's best for my fellow man" - please note that answer gives you NO POINTS until
    • by NIckGorton (974753) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:41AM (#22232106)
      Your taxes already do pay for research - through NIH grants, tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies, and then after the drug is almost fully developed the government often gives the patent to an industry 'partner' to bring to market. A good example is AZT, the first ever anti-HIV medicine. The lion's share of the cost for developing AZT was paid by our tax dollars. Then Glaxo-Wellcome stepped in for the last bit and viola, they have an exclusive right to sell a life saving drug for whatever the market will bear.

      From Physicians for a National Health Program's website: "15. Taxpayers pay for most research costs, and many clinical trials as well. In 2000, for example, industry spent 18% of its $13 billion for R&D on basic research, or $2.3 billion in gross costs (National Science Foundation 2003). All of that money was subsidized by taxpayers through deductions and tax credits. Taxpayers also paid for all $18 billion in NIH funds, as well as for R&D funds in the Department of Defense and other public budgets. Most of that money went for basic research to discover breakthrough drugs, and public money also supports more than 5000 clinical trials (Bassand, Martin, Ryden et al. 2002). Taxpayer contributions are similar in more recent years, only larger." http://www.pnhp.org/news/2004/february/will_lower_drug_pric.php [pnhp.org]

      So they paid 2.3 billion (tax subsidized), and we kicked in 18 billion. Then they get to charge us for access to the drugs for which we paid 95% of the basic research costs.

      Though you may say that PNHP is a bunch of hippies, so if you prefer a more grandfatherly source the AARP do a decent job too: http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/prescription/double_taxation.html [aarp.org]

      Of course that is the reason that while you may not trust the government, they could be a much better steward of medical research than market forces. Market based R&D is inherently morally corrupt. It can't be otherwise. If its not obvious because of the fact that more R&D is spent developing drugs to give octogenarians a hard-on and a full head of hair than to offer effective treatment for malaria that kills millions each year in the developing world, MSF gives a great summary of the reasons that market based R&D is wrong: http://www.accessmed-msf.org/main/medical-innovation/introduction-to-medical-innovation/what-is-wrong-with-r-d-today/ [accessmed-msf.org]

      Though I do agree with you that at present I don't trust the government. Not that they do bad research... the NIH and the researchers they fund are amazing. But I don't trust the corrupt system that gives the breakthrough drugs that the government develops into the hands of private industry so that they can extort millions of Americans for the price that the 'market will bear' for drugs they may need to survive.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        industry spent 18% of its $13 billion for R&D on basic research, or $2.3 billion in gross costs ... Taxpayers also paid for all $18 billion in NIH funds, as well as for R&D funds in the Department of Defense and other public budgets. Most of that money went for basic research to discover breakthrough drugs ... public money also supports more than 5000 clinical trials (Bassand, Martin, Ryden et al. 2002).

        So they paid 2.3 billion (tax subsidized), and we kicked in 18 billion. Then they get to

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by freedom_india (780002)
      Awww... come on dude, is USA a communist / socialist state with Free medicine and care for all?

      Only dumb, classless, countries like Britain, France, Soviet Union have[had] such socialist tax funded medical research, where your next door 2-bit no-good neighbor who works as a construction worker gets the same medical care as you[who is a investment banker].

      This is good ol' US of A. Where it is finally good to be flithy rich.
      My money buys me better treatment because i fund the research.

      Tax money for research??
    • by McGiraf (196030)
      "why can't taxes pay for medical research?"

      They do, to a large extent.

      Google for Public investment , private profits.
  • Could Antigua have produced the medicine as part of their court winnings, or is that limited to copyright only? I would love to buy exact copies of name brand drugs at their true value, while sticking it to big pharma at the same time!
  • Time To Socialize It (Score:2, Interesting)

    by milsoRgen (1016505)
    I personally believe all health care, including R&D should be government ran.
    That's not to say that private industry has no place in health care. I just believe the government should be at the fore front in terms of research and patient care.
  • Doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joshv (13017) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @08:08AM (#22233010)
    There are no double blinded controlled studies of AIDS drugs that have actually proven, using clinical endpoints, that taking an AIDS drugs will extend your life a single day. The "fast track" approval process for AIDS drugs is farce, driven by the political pressure to "do something!", and nothing like the process that a heart medication for the general population has to go through.
  • One of the real problems here is the Bayh-Doyle Act of 1980, which allowed publicly funded researchers (including universities) to patent or otherwise own the intellectual property rights of inventions funded by your tax dollars and mine.

    Before 1980, companies had to do all the research work themselves. If they were assisted by a university's research lab, and if that lab were funded by the Federal government, then intellectual property rights would be held by the government. If Whatsamatta U discovered

  • Good for US (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @10:25AM (#22233924) Homepage Journal

    good news for India & Brazil who need this drug to be cheap


    It's also good news for the US which needs this drug to be cheap. AIDS patients aren't earning a lot of money while on this therapy, and their other medical care costs a lot of money. Either them directly, or their insurance corps which mark up the payout and charge the rest of us who haven't (yet) needed the drugs.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

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