Drug Patents

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From the policy page at the Open Knowledge Foundation:

Problems with the current system

" the current system is not focusing resources on the most pressing problems. Government-granted patent monopolies cause:

  • Exorbitant drug prices - hardly justifiable when pre-tax profits are often twice the size of budgets for R&D.
  • Excessive marketing expenses and distortions in advertising campaigns masquerading as public information.
  • Wasted research into duplicative drugs - the Federal Drug Administration estimates that 67% of the drugs to which it grants patents do not improve significantly on their predecessors.
  • Neglect of research that is unlikely to lead to patentable drugs.
  • Excessive investment in non-essential drugs such as slimming pills.
  • Concealment of research findings into the effects of established drugs as well as protection of production secrets. Recently in the UK evidence was witheld about the suicidal side-effects in teenagers of one supposed anti-depressant while manufacturers were pressing doctors to start prescribing it to under-18s..."


Alternative Solutions

"Where the pharmaceutical companies are culpable is in their negative attitude towards alternative mechanisms for R&D. Four have recently been proposed:

1. Mandatory employer-based research fee to be distributed through intermediaries to researchers.

2. Zero-cost compulsory licensing patents, in which the patent holder is compensated based on the rated quality of life improvement generated by the drug, and the extent of its use.

3. An auction system in which the government purchases most drug patents and places them in the public domain.

4. Financing pharmaceutical research through a set of competing publicly supported research centers." (http://www.okfn.org/open_knowledge_trail/drug_patents/)


Position of the Open Knowledge Foundation

"The Open Knowledge Foundation believes that this is an issue where the damaging effects of misguided IP laws and narrow-minded approaches to innovation have very real costs, costs that are measured in human lives. It is an area where international IP policy is determined by the interests of western multinational pharmaceutical companies while the costs are borne predominantly by the poor in the developing and developed world. We therefore strongly support the efforts and activities of the many individuals and NGOs working in this area such as Medecins San Frontieres and James Love with the Health and IP programme at CPTech." (http://www.okfn.org/open_knowledge_trail/drug_patents/)