Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...s-1767257.html

    Supposedly, the current pharamaceutical patents system limits the availability of essential medicines to those who need it.

    "Drug companies usually come in late in the process of development, and pay for part of the expensive, but largely uncreative final stages, like buying some of the chemicals and trials that are needed. In return, then they own the exclusive rights to manufacture and profit from the resulting medicine for years. Nobody else can make it."

    And more of pharma companies' budgets often goes on marketing, rather than actual research. That is a clear sign that they are out to make profit, rather than being committed to providing drugs to those who need them most, regardless of their spending power. If you can't pay, private medical companies have no business with you.

    "There is a far better way to develop medicines, if only we will take it. It was first proposed by Joseph Stiglitz, the recent Nobel Prize winner for economics. He says: "Research needs money, but the current system results in limited funds being spent in the wrong way."

    Stiglitz's plan is simple. The governments of the Western world should establish a multi-billion dollar prize fund that will give payments to scientists who develop cures or vaccines for diseases. The highest prizes would go to cures for diseases that kill millions of people, like malaria. Once the pay-out is made, the rights to use the treatment will be in the public domain. Anybody, anywhere in the world, could manufacture the drug and use it to save lives.

    The financial incentive in this system for scientists remains exactly the same – but all humanity reaps the benefits, not a tiny private monopoly and those lucky few who can afford to pay their bloated prices. The irrationalities of the current system – spending a fortune on me-too drugs, and preventing sick people from making the medicines that would save them – would end.

    It isn't cheap – it would cost 0.6 per cent of GDP – but in the medium-term it would save us all a fortune because our health care systems would no longer have to pay huge premiums to drug companies. Meanwhile, the cost of medicine would come crashing down for the poor – and tens of millions would be able to afford it for the first time.

    Yet moves to change the current system are blocked by the drug companies and their armies of lobbyists. That's why the way we regulate the production of medicines across the world is still designed to serve the interests of the shareholders of the drug companies – not the health of humanity."

    I think that would definitely be a step in the right direction. Reward researchers for their scientific contributions, then make that knowledge free and have not-for-profit agencies manufacture them. Intellectual property rights which get in the way of universal healthcare should be abolished.

    This just confirms my suspicions that drugs companies are raking it all in.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    Without intellectual property rights there wouldn't be much incentive for the market to produce the drugs/do testing in the first place. The top firms today use the big profits they make on sussessful drugs to subsidise failed drugs/research. Stiglitz's idea is commendable, but unfeasible in a market economy imo. But I agree, something ought to be done to distribute lifesaving treatment at lower prices (just above cost price, perhaps) to those that need it but cannot afford it around the world.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Klinsmannic)
    Without intellectual property rights there wouldn't be much incentive for the market to produce the drugs/do testing in the first place. The top firms today use the big profits they make on sussessful drugs to subsidise failed drugs/research. Stiglitz's idea is commendable, but unfeasible in a market economy imo. But I agree, something ought to be done to distribute lifesaving treatment at lower prices (just above cost price, perhaps) to those that need it but cannot afford it around the world.
    Whatever it takes to sustain research, really. Increase university research funding, build independent labs with government funding. Reward successful researchers and keep paying them, nonetheless. Medical companies could still make profits from drugs, perform research, and use brand names, but not patent medical compounds or genes, simply enough. They would be rewarded for discoveries just like anyone else.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Liquidus Zeromus)
    Whatever it takes to sustain research, really. Increase university research funding, build independent labs with government funding. Reward successful researchers and keep paying them, nonetheless. Medical companies could still make profits from drugs, perform research, and use brand names, but not patent medical compounds or genes, simply enough. They would be rewarded for discoveries just like anyone else.
    I'm not an expert- never even heard Stiglitz's idea before tbh- so feel free to correct any flaws/mistakes in my reasoning.

    Just seems like a huge step...it would be a big shockwave to the market system, and I doubt the powerful firms/economies (i.e. the major IMF donors) would want to alter the status quo. At least with the current system, the abnormal profits are used to fund unsuccessful reasearch and ensure the drug companies always have new drugs in the pipeline. In the new system, if Acme Corp fails to make a breakthrough in 2 years say, thus receives no awards, it's likely that it won't be able to cover its costs and will probably fail.

    On a different note, if everybody could get the information for free, and thus anyone could produce the drug, then the firms with the lowest cost structure would undercut everyone else I'd imagine. Chinese firms would probably win out, and we'd lose jobs and eventually technical expertise in our markets...something which nobody would allow.

    -----
    A better option could be to punish things like drug 'dumping' on poor countries- generally controlling big pharma's power- and to maybe have a more fluid and equitable licensing system than what we have atm. This probably needs to be sorted out at the WTO, somehow. I don't know how exactly that would work, though.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Klinsmannic)
    I'm not an expert- never even heard Stiglitz's idea before tbh- so feel free to correct any flaws/mistakes in my reasoning.

    Just seems like a huge step...it would be a big shockwave to the market system, and I doubt the powerful firms/economies (i.e. the major IMF donors) would want to alter the status quo. At least with the current system, the abnormal profits are used to fund unsuccessful reasearch and ensure the drug companies always have new drugs in the pipeline. In the new system, if Acme Corp fails to make a breakthrough in 2 years say, thus receives no awards, it's likely that it won't be able to cover its costs and will probably fail.

    On a different note, if everybody could get the information for free, and thus anyone could produce the drug, then the firms with the lowest cost structure would undercut everyone else I'd imagine. Chinese firms would probably win out, and we'd lose jobs and eventually technical expertise in our markets...something which nobody would allow.

    -----
    A better option could be to punish things like drug 'dumping' on poor countries- generally controlling big pharma's power- and to maybe have a more fluid and equitable licensing system than what we have atm. This probably needs to be sorted out at the WTO, somehow. I don't know how exactly that would work, though.
    Of course there are those who don't want to change the status quo. They make political barriers, as described in the article.

    It would be fair to let the most cost-efficient manufacturers win most of the market, but the thing is that drug manufacturing would be a not-for-profit operation. People are rewarded for the ideas, but anyone else can manufacture them. If they are mostly made by the government, then businesses won't have a stake in drug manufacturing as they won't be able to compete when people can just get drugs for free or at bare minimum prices from a nationalised manufacturer.

    Drug "dumping" is an important issue, especially if pharma companies are marketing the wrong drugs to poorly educated populations. Just another example of their bad influence. They should either be better regulated or replaced altogether.

    An alternative to simply rewarding people for ideas, is granting licenses to drugs companies to produce. The government would perform a compulsory purchase of all approved medical patents, and license out their production to several manufacturers accordingly.
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    I've no experience in the field, but I don't think people try to find cures to diseases for the money. The only remaining problem is funding - and I think this should be the government's domain. There just needs to be increased regulation (perhaps nationalisation) to stop big drug companies making fat profits at the expense of the ill. In response to the thread title, yes.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    There's a good podcast by big name political philosopher Thomas Pogge on this very subject here:

    http://publicethicsradio.org/2008/08...al-innovation/

    I find his view pretty convincing.
    Offline

    14
    ReputationRep:
    Well, profiteering does drive the development of drugs so in many senses I couldn't see a realistic and better option to the current situation of huge drug companies making these drugs and reaping huge profits.
    Also, there are government bonuses and charitable organisations also have bonuses for companies who find cures / treatments for rare/tropical medical conditions and those conditions which affect the third world countries. So such a thing does exist, just not on the scale you are proposing. While it's a great idea, I am a realist, and the only way drug development can move forward is if it is profitable. I imagine we will see a big change in pharmaceuticals in coming years as many of the major moneyspinners for the drug companies are starting to come out of patent now in Britain.
    Although the drug itself may be released patent-free, there will still need to be a lot of research done into drug delivery and packaging (by this i mean, the drug capsule/coating). If you are suggesting that the entire process from drug discovery through trials and finally licensing is paid for by this fund - that is a HUGE amount. Most drugs cost around £1 billion to develop from start to the drug being available to use on patients.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    Abolish patents by all means*, but I still have no idea how the decisions of how resources are to be allocated are supposed to be made 'rationally.' We've known since Mises and Hayek that in the absence of a price mechanism, there is no feasible way to solve the epistemic and decision making problems that central planning involves; I'd be a lot more confident that the people involved know what the hell they're doing if they paid at least lip service to this fact.

    * Personally, I'd get rid of the FDA first - you think the $1bn price tag of putting a drug through all the clinical trials and other hoops doesn't disincentivise innovation?
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    So Stiglitz proposes to replace a system of government largesse that allows a small minority to levy an indirect tax on the public with... a system of government largesse that allows a small minority to levy a direct tax on the public.

    Bravo sir!
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by DrunkHamster)
    * Personally, I'd get rid of the FDA first - you think the $1bn price tag of putting a drug through all the clinical trials and other hoops doesn't disincentivise innovation?
    But presumably you still think it should be a legal requirement to test drugs, right?

    EDIT: Stiglitz, Pogge etc aren't idiots. They've read about the economic calculation problem. If nobody is developing the drugs, you offer bigger prizes, I guess.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    But presumably you still think it should be a legal requirement to test drugs, right?
    Nope.

    EDIT: Stiglitz, Pogge etc aren't idiots. They've read about the economic calculation problem. If nobody is developing the drugs, you offer bigger prizes, I guess.
    Well, I'll put it this way: nothing in what I've read of the proposal has convinced me that they've understood the calculation problem (Lange and Lerner read about it too, but they entirely failed to comprehend its import. Stiglitz's Wither Socialism strikes me as entirely along the same lines.) The problem is not when to offer more money but how to distribute the relative amounts to each disease; and this is where the whole idea of a 'rational' central planner goes off the rails.

    Edit: You heard about Jerry Cohen, I presume?
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by DrunkHamster)
    Nope.
    Oh. That strikes me as rather crazy and wrong. Oh well. Another one for the disagreements list

    (Original post by DH)
    Edit: You heard about Jerry Cohen, I presume?
    Yeah, I read about it yesterday. I only heard him talk twice (at the Oxford Radical Forum 2008, and at his Valedictory Lecture), but he was enthralling both times, definitely one of the best speakers I've ever heard. At the Radical Forum, he encouraged those listening to sing with him parts of 'Solidarity Forever', which is an experience unlike any other I've ever had in a lecture theatre.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by DrunkHamster)
    Nope.
    So you'd be willing to submit people to a future medical tragedy on the scale of thalidomide just so you don't interfere with the market mechanism by, oh I don't know, allowing unscrupulous drug companies to exploit the disparities in medical knowledge between them and the general public for profit?

    This is enough reason to ignore anarcho-capitalism as a doctrine, to be honest.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    Oh. That strikes me as rather crazy and wrong. Oh well. Another one for the disagreements list
    It struck me as rather crazy and wrong at first too, before I thought about it. I think David Friedman's explanation is quite convincing:

    Here the FDA does not limit itself to censoring labels; it has the power to give or withhold permission to market 'dangerous drugs'. Almost everyone approves of this power. The danger of an irresponsible producer releasing a new product prematurely, only to discover tragic side effects, is obvious. What is more natural than to have the government prevent such lethal gambles by keeping new drugs off the market until they are proven harmless? Why not play safe?

    But there is no way to play safe. If a useful new drug is kept off the market, people who might be saved if the drug were available will die. Caution kills. Whom it kills may not be obvious; often the new drug is only an improvement on an old one, an improvement which might raise a cure rate from 80 percent to 85 percent. Which men and women and children make up the 5 percent killed by caution no one can ever know; their deaths are statistics, not headlines. A statistical corpse is just as real as a thalidomide baby on the front page; it is just less visible.

    Visibility is an important element in politics and the FDA is a political institution. Given a choice between one tragedy on the front page and ten in the medical statistics, it inevitably prefers the latter. It thus has a strong bias in favor of overregulating, of stifling medical progress in the name of caution.

    Drug companies have some of the same bias. Corpses on the front page are bad advertising. Damage suits can be expensive. But drug companies are also in the business of selling drugs to people who very much want to live; a new and improved product is a new source of income. The drug companies are, to some degree, in a position to balance the risk of tragedy against the value of a better chance at life—to people who want to live it.

    My own conclusion—that drug companies should be free to sell, and their customers to buy, anything, subject to liability for damages caused by misrepresentation—must seem monstrous to many people. Certainly it means accepting the near certainty of a few people a year dying from unexpected side effects of new drugs.

    I believe the cost of our present policy, although less visible, is even higher. How high I cannot tell. I know that at least one doctor associated with the development of cortisone believes it would not now be available if the FDA had at that time enforced as stringent safety standards as it does now. The same has been said—upon how much evidence I do not know—of penicillin. There will doubtless be people who gamble their lives on the use of new and unsafe drugs and lose. Against that we must set the lives of the millions who would be dead today if we had 'played safe' 50 years ago.

    (The argument of this chapter received striking support in 1981, when the FDA published a press release confessing to mass murder. That was not, of course, the way in which the release was worded; it was simply an announcement that the FDA had approved the use of timolol, a β-blocker, to prevent recurrences of heart attacks.

    At the time timolol was approved, β-blockers had been widely used outside the U.S. for over ten years. It was estimated that the use of timolol would save from seven thousand to ten thousand lives a year in the U.S. So the FDA, by forbidding the use of β-blockers before l981, was responsible for something close to a hundred thousand unnecessary deaths.)



    Yeah, I read about it yesterday. I only heard him talk twice (at the Oxford Radical Forum 2008, and at his Valedictory Lecture), but he was enthralling both times, definitely one of the best speakers I've ever heard. At the Radical Forum, he encouraged those listening to sing with him parts of 'Solidarity Forever', which is an experience unlike any other I've ever had in a lecture theatre.
    I was there for that lecture! The talk was interesting, but IIRC was for the most part a rehash of material which had appeared in one of his books. The singing, however, I remember vividly. I also went to some of his seminars on Rescuing Justice and Equality, and there is no doubt that he was one hell of a sharp philosopher. I maintain that Self-Ownership... is actually a great contribution to and strengthening of libertarian political philosophy, despite Cohen's intentions, but it took me a while to wrestle with it and come to this conclusion.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Andy the Anarchist)
    So you'd be willing to submit people to a future medical tragedy on the scale of thalidomide just so you don't interfere with the market mechanism by, oh I don't know, allowing unscrupulous drug companies to exploit the disparities in medical knowledge between them and the general public for profit?

    This is enough reason to ignore anarcho-capitalism as a doctrine, to be honest.
    I wouldn't want to 'submit' anyone to anything, but I would certainly defend their right to put whatever they like into their own bodies without the prior approval of a government agent, yes. Is is very easy (and very short-sighted) to focus on the extremely visible and tragic costs which occur when a medicine goes badly wrong while ignoring the invisible yet highly real costs of insisting on clinical trials etc.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by DrunkHamster)
    I wouldn't want to 'submit' anyone to anything, but I would certainly defend their right to put whatever they like into their own bodies without the prior approval of a government agent, yes. Is is very easy (and very short-sighted) to focus on the extremely visible and tragic costs which occur when a medicine goes badly wrong while ignoring the invisible yet highly real costs of insisting on clinical trials etc.
    So what about drugs such as thalidomide?

    I mean, it took years for the effects to be apparent, and your analogy of self ownership doesn't really work when the people who bore the effects of the drug never consented to taking it.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    I predict DH will suggest there will be privately driven methods of drug credentialization - ditto practitioners and dispensers. I'm not sold on something due to the fact this seems open to huge and disasterous bad things than can occur with the information advantage the drugs companies would have, especially over the consumers. We should have gotten rid of DTC advertising about the time we got the snake oil salesmen out of business. I don't want a resurgence.

    Hell, let's fully nationalize (better, internationalize) pharmaceuticals. Lots and lots of gifted researchers want to work in drug discovery outside of private gain (in fact, they are often repulsed by the mercenary and ethically dubious behaviour of big pharma.) Consider it a humanitarian endeavour, and the target discoveries can be driven by the will of the international community, rather than who can pay, and cynically price fixing to take advantage of the cut-offs in socialized healthcare. It would obviate the need for patents or IP wrangling, because the drugs would, necessarily, held in common by all mankind - and, of course, the drug could be distributed at cost of production, sans the obscene markup while the company has the patent. It is unnecessary (and perhaps counter-productive) to appeal to lowest-common-denominator motivations when trying to eliminate disease.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    communism>capitalism in this regard
    Offline

    15
    ReputationRep:
    Removing patents would increase the level of 'trade secrets' patenting something makes that information freely available. Might actually stifle development?
 
 
 
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • Poll
    Have you ever participated in a Secret Santa?
    Useful resources
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

    Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

    Quick reply
    Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.