Imagine a scenario with a quarter of the world dying of treatable diseases while the cure is held closely by a few hugely rich corporations that refuse to dispense the medicines at a price that is affordable to the poor. Sounds like stuff for a ‘oh my God’ sci fi movie ?
Sorry, but that is the situation right now in the world. Diseases like Hepatitis, Heart Diseases, Diabetes and Aids – all that have drugs to control them and often cure them are available. But the patent to those life saving drugs belong to massive multinational corporations that refuse to allow ‘generic’ drugs to be manufactured cheaply in (say) China and India and distributed to save lives.
The argument of course is cost of development of these drugs. “How will the drug companies survive to do further research and go on producing life saving drugs of the future if they has sell their drugs at a loss ?” It’s a strong argument that on the face of it seems absolutely reasonable. But that in the word ‘cost’ and ‘loss’ lies the fallacy of the argument.
Looks deeply into the ‘costs’ of the major drug companies and you will find hidden it huge profits for the shareholders. Huge costs of highly paid lawyers to protect the patents. Highly paid scientists vying with each other to take out and protect their patents. Huge salaries to CEO and the management team with attached bonuses etc. Huge marketing costs too. Add it all up and you will soon see that the what we call simply protection of ‘costs’ is actually often protection of ‘wealth’
And then the issue of morality kicks in. What is the ‘cost’ of development of drugs that is fair for the populations of the world that desperately need them ?
Nor does the idea that “it mine and I can do what I want with it” work. We live in a global world and the fundamentals of globalization is fairness and equality. Otherwise Globalization is skewed in favour of the rich nations, and the rich within poor nations. Globalization will then lead to conflict and war. Also the Western nations and /or the multinationals have for long had a policy of attracting the best scientific talent to themselves by higher pay scales. Its a skewed immigration policy that for years created a ‘brain drain’ that worked against scientific development in developing countries. Thankfully that is being reversed now.
I do not deny the incredible innovation (say) in the US. It’s ability to provide some of the best minds in the world with some of the best environments to develop their products in. Its admirable. But either we are a global community or we are not. And if we are, then at least availability of life saving drugs must not be used to support an ‘oasis of wealth’.
Ayurveda is a case in point. For centuries the knowledge and wisdom of Ayurveda was available free to the people. The best practitioners would dispense their knowledge and healing abilities free , being supported ore by the rich that could afford to do so. Now suddenly there is a scramble to ‘patent’ Ayurvedic ideas and medicines. Those that for centuries have been available free.
This has been a raging arguments – especially in light of drug companies in China and India that are producing generic formulations of drugs that were created by multinationals to be distributed at cheaper and affordable prices to those that would die without them. Gradually these ‘generic’ drug manufacturers are creating their own molecules and soon will file their own patents. Hopefully they will turn out different,
So what is more moral. To infringe patents and save lives, or to hold on to the law of patent as a more moral stance – and lives be damned ? I invite those with greater knowledge than I into this argument …