Drug Patents & Patent Pools – by “Daniel S”

The deep issues of the Patent system are clearest, perhaps, in the realm of chemical drugs. While pharmaceutical companies are few and require great funding (the main defense of drug patents is related to the high cost of drug research and development), they still operate as multinational businesses. Notice both words: multinational businesses, meaning that they seek to minimize their expenditures and maximize their profits on a worldwide level. But the inequality between the First World and the Developing World is terrifyingly deep (and getting deeper) and five thousand dollars needed for a year of HIV medication is a number that doesn’t mean the same in San Francisco as in the Sub-Saharan Africa. In trying to define quality of life, one often speaks of needs, and there should certainly be a line drawn between consumer products and human needs. The idea of patent pools has been forwarded as a solution to the inequality of consumption. Patent pools assemble the research of “originator” companies and allow smaller pharmaceutical companies to produce their drugs and sell them at lower costs while still paying royalties to the originator. Ideally, this means that prices vary according from country to country (situation to situation), which is an adjustment to, if not the Law, the markets and situations of specific places.

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