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March 18, 2010
More IP That Kills
Long-time readers may remember that I have a particular problem with the use of intellectual property rules in ways that lead to more real tangible harm. In particular, the use of patents around drugs for life-threatening illnesses presents problematic cases and seems to lead to bad behavior
On the one hand, it's very clear to me that profit potential and protection for discoveries is a crucial part of the reward system that encourages businesses to take the (often large) financial risks necessary to find, test, and develop new medicines. On the other, there's a serious moral case to be made that the pursuit of profit should not always or automatically trump the needs of people whose lives are at risk.
Today brings another reminder (almost a year to the day after my last post on this topic) that the dilemma is far from resolved. MSF published a response in the New York Times to an op ed piece. In their response, they argue that the potentially increased intellectual property protection in proposed health care legislation would slow or block the development of generic versions of key drugs. Again.
It's sad that this many years on we still don't have a good national (or even international) regime for helping both sides. Companies need good markets and a way to recoup their costs. People need existing life-saving medicines, and new innovations brought to production as quickly as safety allows. These don't seem like incompatible goals, to me.
(Full disclosure: I'm a financial donor to MSF and friends of mine have done volunteer work for them.)
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