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KEI Works to Make the World a Better Place in Many Ways (Video) 39

Posted by Roblimo
from the intellectual-property-treaties-often-prohibit-good-things-in-amazingly-stupid-ways dept.
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) director Jamie Love -- formally James Packard Love -- is the brain behind the "$1 a day" HIV drugs that have saved millions of lives in Africa and other poor parts of the world. Basically, he went around asking, "How much would it cost to make this HIV medication if the patent cost was removed?" At first, no one could answer. After a while, the answer came: Less than $1 a day. At that price, the Bush administration set up a massive program to deliver generic anti-HIV drugs to Africa. Jamie also works on copyright issues, boosts free software (he's a Linux user/evangelist and had more than a little to do with the Microsoft antitrust suit), and generally tries to make the international knowledge ecology more accessible and more useful for everyone, especially those who aren't rich. Or necessarily even prosperous. He's a smart guy (read the Wikipedia entry linked above), but more than that he's bullheaded. Jamie has worked on some of his initiatives for years, even decades. In many cases you can't say, "He hasn't succeeded," without adding "yet" on the end. (You'll understand that statement better after you watch the video, which we broke into two parts because it is far longer than our typical video interview.)





Transcript will be ready Wednesday

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KEI Works to Make the World a Better Place in Many Ways (Video)

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  • Patent Cost (Score:1, Insightful)

    by VeryBest52 (2897689)
    People tend to forget that without the 'patent cost' we'd have no research. Drug companies need those massive profit margins in order to fund future research for present and future illnesses. Especially since the government drug research is at an all time low.
    • Re:Patent Cost (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Monday April 15, 2013 @05:33PM (#43456125) Homepage Journal

      We've had lots of exciting arguments about that very question in the past, and I think the consensus is "yes, but there are still a lot of inefficiencies in that." Advertising, lobbying, kickbacks to doctors for endorsement and regulatory processes that are both bloated and insufficient can eat away at that money very quickly. Research costs themselves may be inflated due to the absence of market pressures forcing reagent and equipment suppliers to keep their prices down—ironically, due to patent-supported monopolies.

      I'm not exactly sure how much of the budget goes this way, but when you stack it all up, it seems like it could potentially be quite a lot.

      • by nametaken (610866)

        Wow, you got just about all of it. Also, that might rank up among the most level-headed comments in a potentially disastrous thread, ever. (insert /. joke here, i guess)

        Nicely done. Really.

    • Ever been to Canada? We have dozens of generic brands of popular drugs.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Since when do drug companies fund drug research? They pay for testing, but generally not research.
    • People tend to forget that without the 'patent cost' we'd have no research. Drug companies need those massive profit margins in order to fund future research for present and future illnesses. Especially since the government drug research is at an all time low.

      Remember price discrimination/market segmentation:

      With patent costs, poor people with AIDs can't afford antiretrovirals. Result? The patentholder doesn't sell anything to them, and they die(and AIDs, given its transmission mechanism, has a funny habit of starting its work on mid/late teens and young adults, exactly the sort of human capital who might help their locations be less totally fucked in the future, if they aren't busy dying)...

      Without patent costs? Patentholder still gets nothing; but hea

    • Re:Patent Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lendrick (314723) on Monday April 15, 2013 @05:50PM (#43456255) Homepage Journal

      Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where capitalism is not the best solution for everyone. There's no incentive for drug companies to spend large amounts of money researching drugs that won't see a lot of use, such as new antibiotics for fighting superbugs, or ways of actually curing chronic conditions such as diabetes. On the other hand, there would be a massive amount of benefit to actually *having* these things.

      Additionally, in a purely capitalist society, the people who bear the cost for drug research are people who are already sick, and thus less able to work. Paying for drug research is more like "insurance", because it protects you from illnesses in the future. Even if I'm not sick, drug research benefits me because (on average) it increases the quality and duration of my life. On the other hand, since there's no immediate benefit, people don't want to pay for that out of pocket. Massively expanding government drug research would be a very good thing in the long run, not to mention that it would create jobs right now.

      • There's no incentive for drug companies to spend large amounts of money researching drugs that won't see a lot of use,

        Sure there is, they make up for it by charging a lot. Check it out [fiercephar...turing.com].

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where capitalism is not the best solution for everyone

        "Capitalism" has nothing to do with it. The question is whether a free market can produce these goods.

        Additionally, in a purely capitalist society, the people who bear the cost for drug research are people who are already sick, and thus less able to work.

        There are certainly market-based solutions for this: health insurance companies would have to pay you based on your pain, suffering, and years of life lost.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          But one thing is abundantly clear: low cost drugs and efficient health care cannot exist in the current highly regulated environment, in particular since a lot of the regulations are written by drug companies and insurance companies themselves

          The obvious solution to a non-free-market fanboy is to fully nationalise the drug and insurance companies, as well as healthcare. I don't see any merit whatsoever in companies making a profit from things that should be the right of everybody in society to enjoy equally.

          Blah blah, socialism, I know.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      People tend to forget that without the 'patent cost' we'd have no research.

      Baloney.

      You're telling me that research never happened before the day the Patent Office opened?

      Especially since the government drug research is at an all time low.

      Well, at least you can identify the problem. Good for you.

    • It is possible to promote generic drugs in third world countries from a "price discrimination" perspective. That is, you strike the best balance between maximizing the benefit of drugs once they have been discovered, and incentivizing the discovery of new drugs, when you have one price for first world countries and one price for third world countries (and maybe something in between too).

      That said, James Love does not seem to arguing from this point of view, but rather attacking drug patents in general. I

    • by mspohr (589790)

      Most of the research for truly new classes of drugs is performed at public expense by NIH, etc.
      Drug companies cash in on this by conducting clinical trials at inflated cost.
      Drug companies also so a lot of research on tweaking existing drugs to "discover" slightly different variations which they can patent and milk for more profits. Drug companies tend to lie about and hide adverse effects of their drugs.
      The only service they provide is clinical trials and this could be done a much lower public expense.

    • The oft repeated and misleading number for development of a new drug is $1 billion.

      This is a fabrication by industry shills to support the existing patent structure. [avance.ch]
  • Just thought I would mention KEI operates on a shoe-string budget. Anyone with some spare change available could find few better causes. Just follow the link on keionline.org [keionline.org].
  • Meet me at 1st torch.
  • Exceptions "for good causes" for existing copyright and patent laws that he has been pushing for end up legitimizing the laws themselves. Laws and regulations related to medicine often end up just making drug manufacturers richer or protect them from competition further. In the end, Nader/Love-style efforts view more government regulation as the solution, but those regulations usually end up becoming tools by which corporations enrich themselves and by which bad laws become legitimate as "compromises".

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