Access to Health

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This entry is under construction and should be about the Access to Health movement and the issues it is raising. Here's already a citation explaining why drug development costs are so high ... largely because of the patent system.


Citation on the high cost of drug development

"What generally gets included in the accounting for research costs are some amazing things, that I can't do justice to on a blog - I get surprised everytime I talk to my friends in the industry about how much waste is involved - but it's all invisible to them. It's just "how it needs to be for the FDA to keep track of everything." If you want, I can give you some examples, but I'd rather focus on another point for now -

Namely that what big pharma is researching is cancer meds. It's not. In the rare instances that big pharma produces and markets such medicines, it has purchased them from small start-ups that themselves are the result normally of a university laboratory's work. When big pharma cites to billions of research costs, what it is talking about is the process whereby they literally test millions of very closely related compounds to find out if they have a solid therapeutic window. This type of research is directly related to the patent system, as changing one functional group can get you around most patents, eventually. So you like to bulk up your catalogue and patent all closely related compounds, while choosing only the best among them, or, if you're second to market, one that hasn't yet been patented.

This work is incredibly data intensive, and requires many Ph.D's, assistants, and high powered computers and testing equipment to achieve. But it is hardly necessary in the absence of a patent regime. In the absence of patents, (and of course the FDA), you could just focus on finding a sufficient therapeutic window, and cut out the remaining tests. It would be an issue of marginal costs to determine whether someone would go to the effort to find a "better" therapeutic window, or related parameter." (email quote from Joshua Holmes, selected by Kevin Carson at http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2006/05/high-cost-of-developing-drugs.html)


Why Free Trade Agreements are Detrimental to Access to Health

This excerpt from Korean opposition to the FTA agreement with the U.S, gives arguments why access to health is threatened by such treaties:

"1. FTA facilitates privatization and commercialization of public services including healthcare system

We believe that everyone has the right to health service such as prevention, treatment and rehabilitation based on one¹s needs. Commercialization of health service and privatization of public health facilities restrict people¹s access to proper health care. Approving profit hospitals and private health insurance system undermines the national healthcare system which has been mandatory in Korea.

We oppose the KORUS FTA as it undermines the healthcare system as public goods.


2. TRIPS plus provisions seriously restrict people¹s access to medicine

Every nation is responsible to ensure its people to access medicine at affordable price. FTAs seriously block people¹s access to medicine by forcing various measures to strengthen patent and intellectual property protections on medicine. For instance, linkage between patent and drug approval, patent term extension for examination delay, exclusive right on drug approval data, expanding patentable subject matter, limiting the circumstances under which compulsory license may be issued, and prohibiting parallel import would restrict the entry of generic competitors and undermine the ability to access to medicine at affordable price.

We are also concerned of other measures such as A-7 average price for innovative drug used to raise the drug price and serve to benefit patent owners.

We demand that any measures that restrict compulsory licensing and parallel import against the spirit of Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health should be stopped.


3. FTA threatens the safety of food and water

We believe that water is a common resource that everyone has the right to get access. Also, safety should be the priority concern in food trading. We worry that the decision to restart import of beef infected of mad cow disease is made by Korean government simply because beef was considered as a barrier to FTA talk. It should have been based on medical and epidemiologic evidence provided by independent party. The SPS & TBT should not be used as measures to promote export against people¹s health. Thus we oppose KORUS FTA that privatize water; reach agreements on SPS & TBT that threatens health; and decide import of beef on political basis.


4. The investor-to-government claim system can infringe on government¹s duty and right to protect public goods.

We have witnessed many cases that investor-to-government claim system seriously infringes on people¹s right to health, safe environment, and public security system. Under NAFTA, Ethyl and UPS claims against government showed that public health policy could be ruined for the profit of corporations. We also know the case that the attempt of New Brunswick state government to introduce a policy to improve public health system was set back by an investor¹s claim.

Therefore we oppose the KORUS FTA that contains provisions of investor-to-government claim system.

Any international agreement, bilateral and regional trade agreements should not contain provisions that adversely affect people¹s health status." (http://nofta-ip.jinbo.net)


More Information

Make Drugs Affordable: Replacing Trips-plus by R&D-plus Strategy put forward by James Love at CP Tech

URL = http://www.cptech.org/ip/health/rndtf/bridges042004.pdf

The Access to Health and IP pages at CP Tech http://www.cptech.org/ip/health/

The page on Bilateral Free Trade Agreements and IP, an analysis of the Korean-US Free Trade Agreement, is a good analysis that can be applied across the board, and has many suggestions as how to improve such accords.