Sunday, October 08, 2006

Did campaign ads for Proposition 71 violate fair trade laws?

Of "bait and switch advertising," the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] says: It's illegal to advertise a product when the company has no intention of selling that item, but instead plans to sell a consumer something else, usually at a higher price. For more information, ask the FTC for its Guides Against Bait Advertising.

Thus, it's a bit troubling to note text in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Now, leaders of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine [CIRM],
created to implement the initiative, are warning voters not to expect that any
new treatment will be finished with clinical trials with the $350
million-a-year, roughly decade-long effort envisioned by Prop. 71.

The Oct. 5 article by Carl T. Hall is titled: Candid forecast on stem cell research hopes; 10-year outlook cautions against early results from $3 billion plan

The article also includes the text:

Even getting one stem cell treatment through the pipeline within a
decade is hardly a sure thing -- and it will most likely take several more years,
and a big financial commitment from the drug industry, to finish the job.

IPBiz notes that unless CIRM gets serious about working out a deal with WARF over the Thomson patents, CIRM is unlikely to get a "big financial commitment from the drug industry." If CIRM is relying on the re-exam of the Thomson patents for help, they are dwelling in dreamland (or perhap in Aristophanes' nepholokokkygia).

Californiastemcellreport.blogspot has a post entitled CIRM to California: Lower Your Expectations, which includes text:

A recent paper by Tamra Lysaght of the University of Sydney, published in the Australian journal Bioethical Inquiry, examined 99 news stories from the Prop. 71 campaign. Among her conclusions:

"Concerns regarding the hype surrounding the potential medical benefits of stem cell research and its implications for public expecations were notably absent from the public discouse prior to the passage of Prop. 71, though they were later noted by a number of scientific and institutional actors. The reasons for this phenomenom are unclear, but perhaps point to the reluctance on the part of the scientific and medical communities to openly question the value of this line of research or to critcize each other; fears about aligning with religious or other actors opposed to hESC research; or the influence of commercial, academic and media interests in framing and limiting crucial debate."


"One example: It’s common to hear that embryonic stem cell research will result in cures for Alzheimer’s disease, when in fact, unfortunately, the idea that stem cells have the potential to treat Alzheimer’s is far-fetched.

"Knowing this, Rick Weiss, the Washington Post’s science reporter, called a prominent stem cell and neurology researcher to ask why he and his colleagues weren’t correcting the misunderstanding. The scientist’s answer: 'To start with, people need a fairy tale... they need a story line that's relatively simple to understand.'"

The article is in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (online publication 15 July 2006) and the abstract says:

Human embryonic stem cell research has generated considerable discussion and debate in bioethics. Bioethical discourse tends to focus on the moral status of the embryo as the central issue, however, and it is unclear how much this reflects broader community values and beliefs related to stem cell research. This paper presents the results of a study which aims to identify and classify the issues and arguments that have arisen in public discourse associated with one prominent policy episode in the United States: the 2004 Californian Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative (also known as Proposition 71). The findings show that public discourse about Proposition 71 is characterised by a broader range of issues than those usually addressed in scholarly publications and public policy documents. While attention to the moral status of the embryo is an important issue in stem cell research, making it the main focus of public discourse has a polarising effect. This also limits opportunities to identify shared values, understand how political alliances are forged, and develop social consensus. Implications for future research and policy are discussed.

IPBiz notes one should contemplate the background technology presumptions in effect when Proposition 71 passed in California, especially the status of the first paper on human SCNT by Hwang Woo Suk in the journal Science.

IPBiz had discussed the fairy tale business previously.

The Proposition 71 advocates outlined a vision of the FUTURE that was unrealistic. Eli Kintisch in the July 28 issue of Science wrote false things about the PAST, which is far worse and simply inexcusable.

The Argus noted Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks, home of Amgen) co-authored a ballot argument against Proposition 71, expressing support for stem-cell research but decrying this measure as corporate welfare through a costly, unaccountable new state bureaucracy.

***UPDATE. Oct. 11, 2006***

A press release for FTCR stated the following:

"I'm glad the plan offers a realistic assessment of what taxpayers can expect for their $6 billion over the next decade; that's a pleasant change from the hype that surrounded Proposition 71," said Simpson. "However, at the end of the day the best scientific plan is meaningless unless there are guarantees for affordable access to cures and treatments."

FTCR said the best place to ensure affordability, accessibility and accountability is in the IP rules for grantees, both non-profit institution and companies.

Proposition 71, approved overwhelmingly by the voters in 2004, enacted The California Stem Cell and Cures Act. It created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to oversee funding $3 billion in stem cell research. Including bond financing, $6 billion of public money is at stake. The first research grants are expected to be made early next year.

IPBiz notes: By the time there are cures/treatments approved by the FDA for human beings, there will be patents on such cures/treatments that are most likely to be beyond the scope of Proposition 71 and the taxpayers of California. CIRM has shown no tendency to get serious about intellectual property issues (either defensive or offensive), and one surmises that is not going to change. The realistic assessment for approved cures from Proposition 71 dollars in the next ten years is "epsilon close to zero."


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