Patents revoked on AIDS drugs

Just a quick bit of good news: four patents of the key AIDS/HIV drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate have been revoked on grounds of prior art. This is great news for developing nations where lower prices on these drugs could save thousands of lives. [Via Slashdot]

Of course, Gilead (the company whose patents have been revoked) are vowing to fight their corner; after all, life is a wonderful thing, but it must always come second to profit.

6 thoughts on “Patents revoked on AIDS drugs”

  1. “Life is a wonderful thing, but it must always come second to profit.”

    I can’t comment on the evidence, but I’d like to comment on your comment.

    Smith showed us that individuals operating in their own best interest serve the best interests of society as a whole (the “invisible hand”). You aren’t fed by the benevolence of the butcher…

    If drug companies didn’t make profit on thier drugs, they wouldn’t create the drugs that save the lives of these AIDS patients becasue it wouldn’t be worht the risk of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the development or they would immediately go bankrupt.

    Again, i am not commenting on the patent decision itself. It is just frustrating that you are slandering a company who creates lifesaving drugs for which we all should be extremely grateful.

  2. I’m a great believer in free market capitalism. The emphasis there being on “free”. They could have made an incredibly respectable profit on those drugs without desperately clutching on to the patent or marking the price up so far. Profit isn’t the enemy (or not mine at least), but greed is a different matter – and the profit margins of Big Pharma make it plain the R&D budget is more than safe for the foreseeable. I should have chosen my words more carefully, however.

  3. I would agree that the free market is incredibly successful in most aspects of life. But there are certain areas – education, health, public transport being the main ones where you don’t want to make a profit, where making excess money is a bad thing. In health, transport and education these are services where I’d argue you actually want it to just break even (obviously a service running a deficit is bad), pay good wages to its staff of course but providing the maximum quality service for the money it has coming in, be that from government or elsewhere.

    Whilst technology and products thrive in a profit-based free market system, if services use this way of business then that money given out to shareholders is essentially sacrificing quality rather than profit. I think drug companies should still be allowed to run research as a business and they deserve to profit from the results. But health should be run as a service and try to provide the best coverage and protection possible for the money – which means vital medicines need to be priced as low as possible. It’s an uneasy border that only good government/legal work can provide a compromise too, as seen above. Big Pharma makes a lot of profit that it can probably move quite a big distance towards helping those health services thrive before it suffers too much.

  4. There are a great many countries in the world where that attitude is even more prevalant than it is here in the US… if that attitude were one that produced breakthrough, lifesaving drugs, you would be reading me the score about how Canada creates so many new drugs.

    Instead you are talking aobut your opinions about what is the correct amount of profit.

    If the profits are HUGE, during the life of the patent (something i am willing to debate), then more investors will be willing to place more money into the research, so chemists and chemical companies will move even faster to give us tomorrow’s breakthrough drugs even sooner.

    The goal is to get the newest drugs to the poorest people as fast as possible, but if you do so at the expense of the drug makers’ profit, you ruin the system in the long run and will chill the pace of discovery.

  5. It’s a difficult balance but without any restriction the company will only make those drugs that make the most profit – which again leaves the poorest people missing out due to cost.

    it needn’t be an either or thing. There can be regulation and profit making companies, side by side. The terrible state of many services under free-market leaning governments isn’t the best argument for eliminating regulation, if you ask me. In the UK, our trains got privatised and now they are more expensive, run late and with poorer quality. In the US, tens of millions are medically uninsured because healthcare is privatised.

    It’s not that the free market doesn’t work in some (even most) circumstances. it’s not that regulation works in all (or even most) circumstances. They are both important for a working society and leaning too far one way or the other will cause a breakdown in either services or technological advances.

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