PHARMA: Quick blog trawl, with UPDATE

A quick trawl of the blogs this morning finds me catching up on an excellent article on the present and future of DTC from John Mack at the Pharma Marketing Blog, and discovering a new anti-pharma blog called Pharmopoly. Obviously take this with a pinch of salt but here is what the anti-globalization folks at Pharmopoly are saying, and note that drug companies are now moving squrely into their cross-hairs over patnets and reimportation as well as over thrid world imports:

Global Growth launched the Pharmopoly campaign in mid-2004 as a response to Big Pharma’s concerted worldwide lobbying for protectionist laws benefiting their profits at the expense of the sick and the poor. Last year saw an unprecedented, Big Pharma financed, multi-million dollar political lobbying and advertising effort. The lobbying was aimed at influencing the outcome of the U.S. elections in the direction of Big Pharma’s preferred candidates and creating a political climate favourable to their interests globally. That lobbying effort earned Big Pharma a huge legislative payback. High prices for drugs result from the ability of the pharmaceutical monopolies to manipulate patent laws, trade treaties and legislation in order to deter competition. Big Pharma also buys political influence with the specific aim of boosting tax-financed prescription payment subsidies on a gargantuan scale. Only the arms industry relies on taxpayers for its profits more than the pharmaceutical industry. In the developing world already high prices are further compounded by costly import tariffs and ‘luxury’ taxes on foreign manufactured pharmaceutical treatments.

So the sick in rich and poor nations alike face twin threats from revenue hungry governments and corporations seeking to exploit patient necessity – despite the dying having no choice but to obtain drugs at whatever price they can afford. The Pharmopoly campaign aims to expose the high costs to patients of protectionism, import tariffs and government granted patent monopolies.

The Pharmopoly campaign’s three objectives are; firstly to promote the tariff-free trade of drugs in the developing world, secondly defend the parallel trading of pharmaceuticals in the rich industrialised nations. Thirdly, to lobby legislators for patient-friendly duration limits on government granted monopolies which will reduce the long-term costs of drugs for patients. We are campaigning for safe, free and fair trade in drugs worldwide.

UPDATE: Paul Staines from Pharmopoly writes: Thanks for referencing our Pharmopoly blog, but just one point; we’re not “anti-globalization folks”, we are pro-free trade, pro-free enterprise. We’re not against Pharma making a profit. We’re against the abuse of monopoly powers granted by patents and the political influence Pharma has over politicians, particularly in the United States. Big Pharma is arguably against free trade and for protectionism whilst deriving its profits increasingly from socialised medicine. Third world governments are also in our “cross-hairs” – for putting excessively high tariffs and luxury taxes on imported medicines. We’re in favour of free trade in pharmaceuticals across borders.

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  1. Frivolous Capture of Profit
    When a patented med is about to lose its patent, any other company can reverse engineer this particular product rightfully so, and its originator no longer profits off of this med in a very short period of time- usually within the first year of patent loss. Since we are talking about what could be a great loss of pharma profits, such companies initiate such tactics as bogus patent infringement lawsuits- especially when evergreening and other patent extension methods, such as obtaining a pediatric indication fail, perhaps. The industry does not like their profit stream to be inactive.
    What exactly is patent infringement? Basically, in this case, the branded pharma company accuses another generic company of plagiarizing thier invention, which with pharma are chemical patents, such as in the case of a branded med, and therefore a generic company having possession of their former brande med are accused of trespassing without permission of the accuser, which again is the branded med. If another med is made, used, or sold without authorization, a patent is infringed, although it is allowed when the patent expires in the pharmaceutical industry. Patent attorneys get involved and file these largely pointless lawsuits which clearly lack merit not because there is an actual issue if the patent is in fact expired of the branded med, which is the case typically. But because by filing such a lawsuit, this wrongfully created case has a mandatory wait period of 2 ½ years with this type of lawsuit to be decided, which means that much more profits of the makers of the branded med for that period of time, which could mean billions for such a pharma company and their branded med. An analogy may be keeping the stock market open a bit longer to benefit a few, perhaps, but it is clearly dishonest.
    This is allowed in our legal system and why this occurs, this system flaw, remains a mystery. Patients are coerced to continue to pay high prices of branded drugs due to the generic delays caused by these lawsuits filed by the branded pharma companies, so harm is caused by this tactic to the patients who take these meds. Is it not prevented, such lawsuits, because the lawmakers possibly have been bought by big pharma through lobbying? Is it because of the present administration’s affinity with the pharma industry? One can only speculate.
    At one point, pharmaceutical companies’ culture and mission had what were called ethical medical standards. Why? Because it was the right thing to do, since medicine as a practice may be considered both sacred and complex. At times, drugs were created without patents with intent, believe it or not. Jonas Salk and the Polio vaccine is an example of this. Perhaps that was the last time such a noble event happened. Profit motive was not the entire focus, as it appears today with drug companies.
    No patent for Dr. Salk? Is that due to some mental illness of this creator? Absolutely not. The intent of Dr. Salk was to have greater availability of this vaccine for the benefit of public health. Dr. Salk believed that life was not a popularity contest. Today, such an act may be considered taboo or psychotic. I applaud his bravery and stance on his discovery, which, by the way, was funded by our government entirely.
    Fast forward to today and such atrocious acts such as the lawsuit issue mentioned a moment ago. That once ethical industry somehow became possessed with a ‘greed is good’ mentality. Ethical Medical Standards are not visible and likely do not exist anymore, as far as I can observe. Deception, however, does. And the new pharma mentality is encouraged without regard to the optimal health for U.S. citizens. Yet what is stated by pharma (Billy Tauzin, et. al.) opposes what appears to be the case as illustrated by their actions such as what has been described. It’s my belief that U.S. citizens want a return of ethical medical standards, and they deserve this.
    “Silence, indifference, and inaction were Hitler’s principal allies— Lord Jacobovits
    Dan Abshear

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