Sunday, October 31, 2004

Chicago Maroon on drug patents

from Laura Hamilton in the (University of) Chicago Maroon, October 31, 2004:

This embarrassing failure [note: flu vaccine, 2004], however, highlights the fact that our health-care system is broken. American commercial medicine was founded on capitalist principles: Reward innovation with patents and allow private companies to behave as they please [note: perhaps subject to the FDA], and the market will do the rest. The system worked brilliantly for decades, and America enjoyed health care second to none.

What went wrong?

Like any good conservative, I would at once suggest: Blame Canada. Less enlightened countries with varying degrees of socialism, most notably Canada, have scoffed at the free-market theory. They place price controls on patented American drugs. The Canadians still believe you can “eat your cake and have it too,” as they like to phrase it. Americans pay more for American-made drugs than Canadians do—because Americans trust the market to work. Seventeen [sic] years of high drug prices are the incentive for pharmaceutical research and innovation, and the dollars consumers pay are directly reflected in medical strides forward. Essentially, Americans are subsidizing innovations from which the Canadians benefit disproportionately.

Which leads us to these hare-brained “import drugs from Canada” schemes. If politicians want to adopt price controls, they should at least admit it. So we don’t have to ask Canada for drugs. America should really have more pride than that.

Big-pharmaceuticals, whom we can thank for ampicillin, acetaminophen, and fluoxetine, among others, are understandably disconcerted by this bizarrely engineered flouting of American patent traditions. The obvious conclusion—here I want to make it clear that this is not my conclusion, personally, but rather a conclusion that is obvious in a general sort of way from the situation as I have presented it above—would be for big-pharmaceuticals to stop selling drugs to Canada. The only problem would be that Canada might get a little upset, in the sense that it would be a diplomatic disaster, just below the magnitude of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

--> Of Hamilton's reference to fluoxetine, perhaps Hamilton should check out the Winston & Strawn webstite, especially the words "nearly 27 years":

In one of the most significant patent decisions in many years, the Federal Circuit recently invalidated the key patent for Prozac®, the world's leading antidepressant with annual U.S. sales exceeding a billion dollars. See Eli Lilly & Co. v. Barr Laboratories, Inc., 2000 WL 1114915 (Fed. Cir. 2000).

The dispute focused on several patents for fluoxetine hydrochloride, which is Prozac’s active ingredient. Barr Laboratories, represented by Winston & Strawn, contended that Lilly’s main patent was invalid for double patenting. This patent was not scheduled to expire until December 2003. Barr argued that Lilly had improperly extended its patent protection by obtaining multiple patents on slight variations of the same basic invention. By obtaining multiple patents, Lilly extended its patent monopoly on Prozac to nearly 27 years, almost a decade beyond the term Congress authorized.


Post a Comment

<< Home