Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent 471

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the when-patents-go-wrong dept.
theshowmecanuck writes to mention that in a recent study, researchers at the University of Alberta Department of Medicine have shown that an existing small, relatively non-toxic molecule, dichloroacetate (DCA), causes regression in several different cancers. From the article: "But there's a catch: the drug isn't patented, and pharmaceutical companies may not be interested in funding further research if the treatment won't make them a profit. In findings that 'astounded' the researchers, the molecule known as DCA was shown to shrink lung, breast and brain tumors in both animal and human tissue experiments."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If this *REALLY* works, wouldn't people be willing to pay for it?

    If people are willing to pay for it, how come somebody isn't willing to profit from it?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:10PM (#17652384)
      If this really works, anyone who goes through the effort needed to conduct FDA trials and bring the drug to market will immediately face competition from generic drug makers who've invested very little in bringing their product to market. If it were patented, then it would become profitable to spend the money to show that it really does work. Otherwise, the company doing the leg work won't have the leg up on their competition.
      • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:34PM (#17652968) Homepage
        So yeah, there's no financial incentive. So what about in other countries? Will it get developed and tested elsewhere? And if successfully tested, will it become legal in the U.S.?

        What we're talking about is the essential blocking of just one path by which a drug gets to patients. Is there only one path? And if there's only one path, *THEN* we have a serious problem where the industry is truly getting in the way of a better existance for humanity.
        • by dbrutus (71639) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:39PM (#17655654) Homepage
          Since DCA is already on the market for the aforementioned mitochondrial dysfunction maladies, there doesn't need to be any testing. You just administer it "off label", if you dare. The problem is purely a legal one, figuring out the liability if you get the dosage wrong. The people who are currently making DCA have little incentive to fund that sort of thing because they're making next to no money on it already.

          This is a job for a different business model, that's all.
        • by 6ame633k (921453) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:48PM (#17655796) Homepage Journal
          Perhaps Health Insurance Companies could fund this type of research - they would stand to benefit directly due to the high costs associated with cancer treatment.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by erroneus (253617)
            Now *THAT* is something I could get behind.

            Right now, the healthcare system is being driven by those who make the most profit from it. There's lots of incentive to treat with no incentive to cure.

            On the other hand, medical insurers have LOTS of incentive to promote preventative and curing meaures. I'd like to see some sort of requirement for medical insurers to grant portions of their windfall profits for medical research... give them some sort of tax break or something as compensation.
      • Cheap (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drooling-dog (189103)
        The other problem is that dichloroacetic acid is a very cheap and easily produced chemical, on the order of things like aspirin and vitamin C. Nobody's going to be able to charge $10,000 for a month's supply (whatever that is) when you can go out and buy the raw compound for $30 a kilogram or so.

        Maybe the best chance (though a dangerous one) for it is for people to just start using it as an unregulated "nutritional supplement"; then maybe the new NIH institute that tests "alternative" therapies (I forget it
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:17PM (#17652584)
      Re:Am I missing something?

      Yes.

      It's not that people wouldn't pay; it's that without a patent, there's no protection for the manufacturer. Company A pays for the R&D on the drug, and then they go through years of clinical trials to clear the regulatory agencies. This costs $100mm to $1bln for most drugs. If there's no patent protection, Companies B through H can produce generic equivalents, prove equivalency to the regulators (at a cost of a few 10s of millions), and then undercut company A on price.

      In the short run this appears to benefit the consumer. In reality however, Company A is too smart to give a free ride to their competitors. The drug never gets developed and more people die.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fred_A (10934)

        In the short run this appears to benefit the consumer. In reality however, Company A is too smart to give a free ride to their competitors. The drug never gets developed and more people die.

        Well, yes, but on the other hand a lot of money is saved on patent fees. Stop looking at the dark side of things. Sheesh.

        For ages lots of people have fought for state funded research in drugs in Europe for this exact reason (well, among others, notably the fact that very few labs actually do any research any more). Af

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SamSim (630795)
        Why wouldn't the government fund that research? Isn't it the government's job to ensure the welfare of its citizens?
    • If it is not patented, then it can be copied and sold by the non-developing company without royalties. Developing company would rather develop drugs that they can patent and make a stinking profit with.
    • by bfields (66644) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:28PM (#17652818) Homepage
      If this *REALLY* works, wouldn't people be willing to pay for it? If people are willing to pay for it, how come somebody isn't willing to profit from it?

      We don't *know* for sure yet that it really works. We don't know for sure that it may not have some bizarre side-effect in some patients. Answering those questions to the degree of certainty that will convince the FDA to let any US doctor start prescribing it to patients will take huge amounts of time and money. And once one company has expended that effort, *anyone* can sell the drug--and all the companies that didn't fund the testing will have the advantage that they don't need to set a price that will recoup the investment in testing.

      So the market will penalize the company that actually does most of the work needed to bring the product to market. As a result, no company will do that work.

      That's the problem that patents on pharmaceuticals are intended to fix, really: they fund the testing required to establish to the government's satisfaction that the drug is safe and effective, by giving a temporary monopoly to a single company, as an incentive for that company to invest in the testing.

      We think of patents as existing to reward that "ah-ha" moment of insight that produces an original idea. But often such insights are cheap, and occur to multiple people simultaneously. What we really need the patent monopoly for is to encourage the research required to bring a product to market, whenever that research is something that, once done, any competitor could use for free.

      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:26PM (#17654246) Homepage Journal
        "That's the problem that patents on pharmaceuticals are intended to fix, really: they fund the testing required to establish to the government's satisfaction that the drug is safe and effective, by giving a temporary monopoly to a single company, as an incentive for that company to invest in the testing. "

        Well, if this is the case, why can a US institute like NIH, which I think gets a bit of govt. research funding, conduct the trials for drugs that are not patentable, but, might be of benefit to humans...and if it passes...then all drug companies are free to manufacture them?

        If this couldn't be done, then possibly the govt. needs to set up a system for testing drugs that the drug companies won't/can't push through due to the cost with no patent protections.

        • by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:28PM (#17656338)
          If any government-funded entity did this, the patent-funded corporations would scream "unfair competition!" and send their hordes of patent-funded lawyers and lobbyists to get them shut down.

          Big money defends itself.
          • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @12:58AM (#17659022) Homepage
            But if the defense lawyers just say "Well, you had no plans to develop it yourself, and besides, once it is developed, we are handing out the blueprint for free.", then the patent-funded lawyers ought to have no case. Whether or not they do have a case is a matter of what the laws on the books are, and I don't know that. But, if the laws on the books say they do have a case, then those laws have become a problem and need to be changed. The lobbyists might be more of a problem, which perhaps merely indicates that we need more restrictions on corporate lobbying.
      • by stormcoder (564750) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:41PM (#17654626) Homepage Journal
        Actually, if you read the article (I know bizarre), you would have know that it is already and FDA approved drug and is actively prescribed. It has some side effects but nothing horrible. Since it is already approved, getting it cleared for use in a an additional capacity is much easier since it has been proven safe for human use. The only thing that needs to be proved is effecacy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dbrutus (71639)
          Proving efficacy is only a necessity in a minority of countries, the big one being the US. Proving safety is usually sufficient elsewhere which is why medicines often get approved quicker in Europe and other places. There is a 'grey' solution of "off label" prescribing but I'm not sure you'd want to do that with a cancer drug. Then again, with the right waivers, you might.
    • by vandan (151516) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:31PM (#17654346) Homepage
      The people are willing, but our governments are not.

      I have long argued that the drug companies should be sidelined in favour of public money ( and lots of it ) being invested into medical research, with the benefits enjoyed by all. The problem is that the pharmecutical industry is incredibly powerful ( and rich ), and prevent our governments from performing any public research, insisting that the 'market will provide'. This story points out the bullshit level in this case. The market does not provide anything for society other than those things which make the most profits for market players. If we want the best possible medical technology, and for it to be accessible by all people and not just those with the cash, then we need to have massive public investment, and also consider specifically excluding medical technology from patent law.
      • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['hli' in gap]> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @07:24PM (#17655432)
        Actually, you are overstating the work which the drug companies engage in. Most of the research is done in academia, under federal funding. But not quite enough to quality a drug for FDA approval. Then some drug company buys the rights to something that it considers promissing, after most of the risk is gone. It then runs the final trials, etc., and gets the patents.

        Is it any wonder that the drug companies have such remarkable profits.

        Personally I feel that the solution here is to forbid exclusive or discriminatory licensing of research developed with federal money. This would probably mean that research trials would need to be carried further (i.e., more up front investment), but it would prevent the monopoly pricing that is currently the rule. (If you don't think my scenario is common, then what I'm proposing wouldn't very often change anything.)

  • by StarKruzr (74642) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:04PM (#17652300) Journal
    I thought the United States had the monopoly on horridly broken patent systems.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by chimpo13 (471212)
      Canada is the 51st State.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Ahem. The U.S. is the 11'th through 60'th province.

        We haven't figured out what to do with D.C. yet. Maybe give it back to the Indians, since it isn't good for anything anymore. Then they can rename that damn football team.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jours (663228)
      I don't believe we have a monopoly on it yet, but we're working on securing a patent.
    • Re:Funny (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dr Caleb (121505) <thedarkknight@nOSPaM.hushmail.com> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:47PM (#17653318) Homepage Journal
      It's not a broken system. On my local news (Edmonton, home of the UofA) they are specifically NOT including drug companies in funding the trials, because they want the drug to be cheap.

      FTA:

      "A small, non-toxic molecule may soon be available as an inexpensive treatment for many forms of cancer, including lung, breast and brain tumours, say University of Alberta researchers."

      Sir Frederick Banting, (another Canadian) did the same thing with his patent for Insulin, so that drug companies would never have a monopoly on something needed for people to live.
    • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:01PM (#17653662)
      The problem is precisely the LACK of a patent system for this type of scenario. This drug shows exactly what would happen WITHOUT a patent system - no one would have an incentive to develop and test new drugs, because anyone else would copycat without the upfront costs, and win therefore win the price war.

  • Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chacham (981) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:05PM (#17652318) Homepage Journal
    Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent

    Note the word "may".

    But because it's not patented or owned by any drug firm, it would be an inexpensive drug to administer. And researchers may have a difficult time finding money for further research.

    Speculation.

    Dr. Dario Altieri, of the University of Massachusetts, said the drug is exactly what doctors need because it could limit side-effects for patients. But there are "market considerations" that drug companies would have to take into account.

    Buesiness fact.

    Michelakis remains hopeful he will be able to secure funding for further research.

    As anybody would.

    "We hope we can attract the interest of universities here in Canada and in the United States," said Michelakis.

    Excellent.

    --

    The only news here is the drug itself and how things are moving along well. Yet, a speculation is reported as the main factor, when there is no supporting information for it. Did they even ask for funding yet? The researchers are taking the market into consideration, and the reporter seems to want to make a big deal out of it.

    Even if the pharmaceutical companies do turn it down, and even if they do turn it down on the basis of no profit, it just means that the researches will have to do more presentation to find funding. If there is obvious promise in this (which there's have to be to get a pharmaceutical company to invest loads of cash) some organization, or college, or government grant will help pay for the studies.
    • Eh, if this is shown effective even in preliminary tests, it can be tweaked by a structural biochemist (move a hydroxyl or sumfin' to make it easier to cross transport barriers or increase potency) and then you can patent it and market it to great praise and profit...
      • Re:Moo (Score:5, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:03PM (#17653698) Homepage
        Or you can patent one of the production processes for it.

        Someone mentioned the inventor of insulin trying to ensure a "no-monopoly" situation, but since the advent of human insulin produced by genetically engineered bacteria (as opposed to from the pancreas of slaughtered cows/pigs), a select few companies (Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk and that's about it with one exception) have dominated the insulin market since the 1970s (Insulin was discovered in the early 1920s, by the way) due to patents on:

        Methods of producing insulin (specifically recombinant DNA origin insulins)
        Methods of tweaking insulin to be absorbed/used by the body over a longer period of time by adding stuff to the injected mixture (Lente, Ultralente, NPH, etc)
        Methods of producing insulin with "faster than natural" activity profiles by tweaking the molecular structure itself (Humalog and Novolog)
        Methods of producing insulin with extremely long "peakless" activity profiles by a combination of the above two techniques (Lantus and Levemir) - BTW this is where the one exception to the Lilly/Nordisk dominance is. Lantus is made by Aventis.

        From one "unpatented" drug that according to this article will not have an interest from big pharma, history shows that global market dominance can still be established. I have a feeling drug companies right and left will be racing to tweak this new drug to make a better version or better production process (which happens to be patentable).
    • May not matter. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:23PM (#17652702)
      Even if the companies do turn it down they will get a further crack at it. Courtesy of the Byah-Dole act most publicly funded research (especially drug research) in the U.S. can later be "bought" by private companies who may then claim "intellectual property" on the fruits of the public's labors. It is this law that allows both AZT and Viagra (developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health) to be considered "private" property and for the companies to charge the people who invested in their development for their use.

      The practical upshot of this is that if the drug does go to the universities to be developed it would be following the normal track of most medical research. And if any patentability (say on dosage levels) does show up the companies can always buy it then.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Courtesy of the Byah-Dole act most publicly funded research (especially drug research) in the U.S. can later be "bought" by private companies who may then claim "intellectual property" on the fruits of the public's labors.

        This isn't necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. If we reduced the duration of patent protection it would be an entirely reasonable way to recoup the costs of research, and to bring drugs (and other things) into mass production to benefit the public.

        Or you know, we can just wait unti

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)
        Even if the companies do turn it down they will get a further crack at it. Courtesy of the Byah-Dole act most publicly funded research (especially drug research) in the U.S. can later be "bought" by private companies who may then claim "intellectual property" on the fruits of the public's labors.

        Except that the pioneering work was done in Canada.

        Moreover, there is no IP here... the drug is simply not patentable (AFAIK). The only options are patenting delivering mechanisms ('course, it can apparently be adm
    • by dave562 (969951)
      Even if the pharmaceutical companies do turn it down, and even if they do turn it down on the basis of no profit, it just means that the researches will have to do more presentation to find funding.

      Maybe they should go peddle their wares to the Gates Foundation. =)

    • There can be profit without monopoly, and without patents.

      Where there is potential profit, there will be investment.

      If the cost of creating the drug is lower than the benefit conferred upon those taking the drug, then there is potential profit.

      The fact that the drug has been discovered and somehow gone unpatented is simply a windfall for society.

      In the words of Denis Leary: "Where's the fucking problem?"
  • profit.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "curing" an ailment isn't anywhere near as profitable as "treating" an ailment...
  • by panaceaa (205396) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:10PM (#17652396) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't companies like Barr Labs [yahoo.com], whose entire business model is to develop drugs that have fallen out of patent protection, be interested in developing a drug that's not patent protected? It could be a major windfall for them since they're able to develop a new drug before existing brands can be established in the space. The only trick I see is that Barr Labs isn't as used to dealing with the Federal Drug Administration for drug approval, so it might take some hiring in key areas of the company. But these don't seem like insurmountable challenges given the potential market size and the business model match with existing out-of-patent drugs.
    • by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:21PM (#17652682) Homepage Journal
      It's not just their lack of expertise. Getting a drug through level 3 trials is expensive: it takes a lot of (often paid) subjects, and doctors and nurses to spend time with those subjects, and a battery of tests to be done on those subjects. This money is spent over years to ensure that the pill is safe and effective before you have even a single paying patient. Paying the subjects is actually the cheap part.

      And there's the possibility that once they've spent all that money, it could fail. Maybe the pill just doesn't work. Maybe there are side effects: look at the way Merck is getting hammered for producing a highly effective pill (Vioxx) that just happened, to, well, kill a few people.

      Barr makes their money by letting somebody else pay for all that, and then coming in a few years later and charging a lot less. It's the usual problem: the second pill costs $.49, but the first pill costs $75,000,000.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by steelfood (895457)
        I believe this compound has been in use for a long time, albeit for other higher-level purposes. This is merely a different application of the same compound. It's almost like taking asprin for heart disease instead of pain. Since the compound already exists in a FDA approved form, why then would the researchers have to go through the same trouble again? At the very least, they'd be able to cite the previous studies done for FDA approval, and that should speed up the process considerably.

        Given this, I'd thin
      • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:58PM (#17654980) Homepage Journal
        I heard about the Vioxx situation on NPR's Science Friday, that it was a confluence of bad events. The drug had a very narrow group of indications but was practically advertised as a general-use product. There are suggestions that off-label prescriptions were strongly recommended, carelessly using it to treat illnesses for which it was not tested. In some situations, having the drug is actually better than not having it (a debilitating painful illness vs a very small risk of death), but there apparently is no good way to restrict the use so that only the people that really do desperately need it will get it.

        It's basically a case of too much of a good thing. IIRC, there are were suggestions of allowing restricted use but I don't remember what the deal is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pla (258480)
      Wouldn't companies like Barr Labs, whose entire business model is to develop drugs that have fallen out of patent protection, be interested in developing a drug that's not patent protected?

      Nope.

      Manufacturing off-patent generics differs from bringing a new unpatentable product to market in one very key aspect - Off-patent drugs already have FDA approval.

      Finding substance-X doesn't cost that much... Pharmaceutical companies have developed techniques for rapidly trying every plausible variant of a given
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jonbryce (703250)
        I would argue that the problem is not the patent system here, but the FDA approval process. It is creating a huge barrier to entry, and this is the reason we don't get this treatment.

        Of course there should be restrictions in an otherwise free market to ensure that medicines are safe, but they need to be balanced against the risk that they become so onerous that we don't get the medicines at all. It looks like the balance is wrong in this particular case.

  • ...Big Pharma would do it for the betterment of all mankind -- no profit in that!

    Interesting note: CNN is reporting that Cancer deaths have dropped for the second straight year [cnn.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by s20451 (410424)
      ...Big Pharma would do it for the betterment of all mankind -- no profit in that!

      Yeah, it really sucked when the patent expired on Aspirin. Now nobody can buy one because businesses can't make money off it.

      Memo: Something that flatters your prejudices is not the same as news.
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        Yeah, it really sucked when the patent expired on Aspirin. Now nobody can buy one because businesses can't make money off it.

        Au contrair -- the development of Aspirin (trademarked) by Bayer marked a breakthrough in the treatment of acute pain and was a boon to Bayer, until that is, their competitors found a way to copy the formula and create other versions of "Aspirin." So they were able to wring their profits after it was initially developed; now, it is a generic drug, one that anyone can produce, making it relatively cheap and easy to obtain, though for any major pharmaceutical company producing it, it provides only an insign

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >...Big Pharma would do it for the betterment of all mankind -- no profit in that!

      To point out the blatantly obvious, it's not their money to screw around with; it belongs to the owners, i.e. the stockholders.

      How you would you feel if you suddenly stopped getting interest from your accounts just because your investment institution decided to give the money to a charitable cause?
  • This just in... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:10PM (#17652408) Homepage
    This just in: developing medecines takes work, and work costs resources. Anybody who can think of a better way to provide resources to the people interested in developing medecines, besides patent royalties and the like, please come forward.

    And anybody who thinks that people should use their own resources to develop medecines, and then not ask for anything in return when they offer those medecines to the public, are kindly invited to drop whatever they're doing right now, that puts food on the table and a roof over their heads, and devote everything they have to developing medecines for free.
    • So if this medecine is so wonderful, and developing medecines for profit is so evil, why doesn't this University start mass-producing this medecine and giving it away for free?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        So if this medecine is so wonderful, and developing medecines for profit is so evil, why doesn't this University start mass-producing this medecine and giving it away for free?

        For one, it would be illegal since the thing isn't FDA approved. And what does it take to get FDA approved, you ask? Years of studies and many millions of dollars. See many of the other posts on the topic, I'll not repeat them, but the basic point is that they'd have no hope of recouping their investment simply because tons of oth

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Billosaur (927319) *

      This just in: developing medecines takes work, and work costs resources. Anybody who can think of a better way to provide resources to the people interested in developing medecines, besides patent royalties and the like, please come forward.

      How about taking the money Big Pharma uses to line the pockets of its CEOs and the egregiously large profits these companies make and putting the bulk of it into research and production? How about diverting resources and money from male impotence drugs, since I suspect far more people have cancer than there are men who can't spank the monkey.

      • Who are you to dicate how a free individual uses their resources, or how they spend the wealth their work produces for them?

        If it's wrong to spend your time developing Viagra and selling it to misguided middle-aged salarymen, and we should take things away from such people and make them spend their time on cure for cancer instead, then what about you?

        You're obviously intelligent and skilled, and yet you're probably not doing anything to help cure cancer, are you? So when can we expect to see you give up yo
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Billosaur (927319) *

          You're obviously intelligent and skilled, and yet you're probably not doing anything to help cure cancer, are you? So when can we expect to see you give up your job, quit posting to Slashdot in your leisure time, and join a cancer-cure R&D team at minimum wage? Anything less, and we'll find you guilty of exercising your freedom for your own benefit at the expense of your fellow man, and we'll force you to be a more productive and helpful member of society.

          I'll gladly work for anyone who can put my computer and psychology skills to good use curing cancer, AIDS, poverty, etc. I'll even do it for free, in what little spare time I have. I don't pretend to be trying to cure anything, nor do I pretend to have the answers for all of society's ills. What I do know is that your typical CEO makes about 50,000 times more than most of the people who work for them, and if any of them were truly committed to the welfare of others, they'd put the money to work rather tha

    • by spun (1352) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (yranoituloverevol)> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:17PM (#17652562) Journal
      When the free market fails, as in this case, why not let government do it? Most major scientific breakthroughs have come from government funding.
      • Doesn't suggesting that make you an evil communist terrorist or something?
  • Instead of running a dangerous open source meth lab people could run a highly profitable open source DCA lab.
  • Cancer Drug May Not Get A Chance Due to Lack of Patent

    Yeah, well, if they continue to hold it up, it may not get a chance due to lack of patients.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:14PM (#17652478)
    then public labs should. This is a matter of public health, therefore the state should fund the research. If only because, if this molecule has potential, the taxpayer money they put into the research will be peanuts compared to what health care providers will have to pay for licensed medicines. I.e., for the state, this is a matter of making long-term economies, not even a humanitarian pursuit. But of course, our dear leaders have to be willing to pay a miser upfront to avoid paying billions to pharmaceutical companies 10 or 20 years down the line.

    I just don't understand this country anymore: have people completely forgotten we have (or should have) public labs to do the kind of research short-sighted profit-oriented companies won't do? apart for military technologies, it seems society has decided to put its future advances squarely and solely in the hands of the corporate world. This is sad.
    • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:32PM (#17652944) Homepage Journal
      You seem to forge that this is Slashdot.

      Remember, "public" means "government", and "government" is the stupidest there is, unable to do anything at all right. All such intelligence and acumen reside with "business". If only "government" would get out of the way with silly regulations, operating under the principles of the "free market", the profit motive would induce "business" to do the right thing, with the end result that we'd all be better off.

      Silly things like effective medications that are inherently low-cost are an aberration, and don't really exist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Otter (3800)
      If only because, if this molecule has potential...

      As with every "New Miracle Cure For Cancer!" story here (this is, what, the fourth one of the year and we're barely halfway through January), this is something that kills tumors in-vitro, published in a respectable but unremarkable journal and then hyped by an overexcitable univerity PR department. There are literally dozens of results like this every week, virtually all of which go nowhere.

      As for the notion that the unwillingness to develop a drug in the a

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)
        this is something that kills tumors in-vitro,

        Actually, according to this more thorough article [newscientist.com], the drug has also proven effective is mouse models.

        Granted, this still isn't the same as a human trial, but it's a far cry from simply killing cancer in a petri dish.

        As for the notion that the unwillingness to develop a drug in the absence of patent protection somehow is an argument against patents

        Actually, it's more of an argument against privately funded drug development, as it's pretty clear that an unpatentab
  • by haeger (85819) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:14PM (#17652492)
    ...to make money.

    The "big" thing about the Losec medication wasn't really the drug itself, but the way it was delivered to the body iirc. And although AstraZeneca eventually 'lost' the patent (ok, it expired) on the active substance, a lot of other patents regarding the drug delivery were still in place, making them tons of cash.

    So I do believe this is just a scare from the pro patent lobby. I'm sure there are a lot of companies working on this right now to see if it's possible to make a useful drug out of it. Even if the drug itself can't be patented there's probably a whole lot to be learned from it, possibly to be used in other drugs that can be patented.

    I wouldn't worry. If it does cure cancer, we'll get the drug eventually.

    .haeger

  • Obvious solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfern (115937) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:15PM (#17652504)
    Government funded research.

    A lot of people on Slashdot may disagree with this, but the "free market" is not the solution to everything.
  • It wouldn't be an issue, now would it? Who is going to pony up the cash to get FDA approval to let others walk away with the approved drug?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jo42 (227475)
      It will get researched, developed and produced in another country. Americans will then fly or drive to this country to purchase and/or use this drug if the damn Yankees ban it.
    • by ADRA (37398)
      Who cares? If your system of government doesn't work to keep you alive, move to one that does! Whats more important your life or your patriation?
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:15PM (#17652534) Journal
    According to the article dichloroacetate is relatively easy to obtain. "The compound, which is sold both as powder and as a liquid, is widely available at chemistry stores." I'm sure a pharmacist trained in the art of mixing compounds could formulate it to doctor's specs.

    If worse comes to worse you raid your old "Super Advance Kiddee Chemistry Set" and dose yourself.
  • Paging http://oneworldhealth.org/ [oneworldhealth.org] ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:17PM (#17652572)
    here [newscientist.com]

    -mcgrew (my computer is broken):
  • When I checked, Dichloroacetic acid was not a controlled substance of any kind. Therefore if you have cancer and want to give it a whirl, you can just go onto the Sigma-Aldrich website, give them your credit card number and order a bottle. I am sure if it works as well as the researchers believe it does we will have plenty of anecdotal evidence for its usefulness in no time. Also, if it does work, then there is always the public funding sources that also fund actual clinical trials. All drugs do not hav
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)
      Therefore if you have cancer and want to give it a whirl, you can just go onto the Sigma-Aldrich website, give them your credit card number and order a bottle.

      Yeah, and when you have an infection, you can just eat some moldy bread too...

      Pharmaceuticals drugs aren't just the active ingredient. If they were, we'd just eat pieces of willow tree bark for headaches, instead of taking aspirin.
    • Unreasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by forand (530402) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:52PM (#17653448) Homepage
      How in the world is this insightful? You are recommending to people who have no clue what the consequences of just going out and taking some medication might be to give it a whirl since it isn't a controlled substance. Regardless of how we would all love to find out that you could just go to the grocery and grab a bottle of "No More Cancer," suggesting that people experiment on themselves is NOT a reasonable suggestion. Science is not the culmination of anecdotal evidence, just because it worked for someone does not mean it will work for you nor that what you think happened is actually what happened (e.g. just because you no longer have cancer after giving it a try doesn't mean that it was what caused the remission) Giving out advice as you have should be done with great care which you have not displayed.
  • Since the drug is not currently being used to treat cancer, can't the use of it to treat cancer be patented? This is a way that drug companies often keep a monopoly on at least part of a drug's utility, IIRC.
  • by Snarfangel (203258) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:21PM (#17652692) Homepage
    1. Find a plant, animal, or mineral with it.
    2. Market it as a natural supplement.
    3. Profit! /yes, I found the mysterious step 2.
  • I've been down on the current patent situation for a while, but for some reason I'd not looked at it from this angle before. I always figured the biggest problem was that useful inventions were getting locked up for too long by patenting them. But in this case the patents are discouraging valid solutions because the patented options are more profitable. I suppose that this was obvious to some, but I think it's interesting in a subtle way: not only do patents lock up useful creations, they also lock out u
  • about what they are about to submit to slashdot.

    1) Even though it is not patent, drug companies would still make million and millions of dollars. Yes they would all be compteting, but even then they would still make millions and millions of dollars.

    2) There is no reason that they wouldn't start some sort of group development project, then split the profits.

    3) There are companies in other countries who could do this.

    Of course, all the deals with reality and not with spouting some personal and illogical point
  • Not in the "West" (Score:5, Informative)

    by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:33PM (#17652960) Homepage
    Cuba has a large, thriving and internationally recognized cutting-edge pharmaceutical and biomedical research industry. They specialize in developing and distributing drugs to the 99% of planet Earth that can't afford $5/day to get harder erections. They generally research based on the commonality and severity of particular diseases, and then try to find exceptionally low-cost ways to solve them better. Ironically enough, it's quite profitable since selling tens of millions of pills to entire continents at 1% profit can add up pretty quickly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RonBurk (543988)
      And yet, there is the disturbing case of policosanol (just buy some Cuban sugar cane to make it!). Policosanol has the disturbing property that it seems to treat high cholesterol when tested by Cuban-funded studies, but not when tested with non-Cuban dollars.

      Also disturbing is the fact that the Cubans discovered a new use for policosanol (increasing BMD for post-menopausal women) at just about exactly the time the cholesterol claim was being shot down by a large study.

      Let's not all sign up for the Cuban

  • Naturally! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mpapet (761907) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:41PM (#17653116) Homepage
    If they can't protect their market position, they won't make the investment. It has nothing to do with how many people's lives may be extended.

    This is how deregulated industries benefit consumers. Ohh wait...
  • 0.o (Score:4, Informative)

    by Muad'Dib129 (868864) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:43PM (#17653192)
    I am not surprised. I watched my mother in law die of lung cancer a few years ago. Her best (insurance-funded, of course) option was radiation & chemotherapy. A few months ago (July-August), I watched my father go through practically the same thing. Once again, his best (and also insurance-funded) option was radiation & chemotherapy. One bill I saw, that he had to fork out $225 for (co-pay for it being over $20k), was almost $21,000. Why is there not a cure and treatments are our best option? The fat ass American medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry can charge 10K per session to the Insurance Industry, who just plain rips off the American people. It would be such a wonderful irony to see something that isn't patented become a cure...then it would be available to EVERY F*CK*NG PERSON who could throw down a few bucks for the cure, instead of having to rely on the bullshit fat ass Insurance, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries to give us these bullshit treatments that prolong the agony. There would be fierce competition for sales of this cure, therefore making the price of it affordable without the necessity for the Insurance company to intervene.
  • by robyannetta (820243) * on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:46PM (#17653290) Homepage
    I *STILL* have cancer to this day because of the bullcrap like this.

    IMHO as a cancer patient, the reason why there's no 'cure' to different types of diseases (including diabetes) is because the pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars a year keeping us sick. If there was a cure, there goes their profits.

    I would like to see a law passed that says that if a cure if found and not distributed within a viable time frame to the general public (lets say 10 years), the company can be charged with genocide.

    Will it happen? Hell no. There's too many people in power in Washington who owns stocks in these companies.

    - Just my $0.02, take with a grain of salt, your mileage many vary...
  • Universities? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rrohbeck (944847) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @05:48PM (#17653354)
    Then why isn't a university running the necessary studies? Yeah, they cost a lot of money, but if the potential payoff is as big as it seems, funding shouldn't be a big issue.
  • by Arrgh (9406) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @06:16PM (#17653986) Homepage Journal
    ...where we believe that governments have a responsibility to set policy for, and even fund, public health initiatives that are not necessarily advantageous to any given industry sector or corporation.

    The research in question [cihr-irsc.gc.ca] was funded by a Canadian federal government agency, and I'm certain that one [bccrc.ca] or [ocrn.on.ca] two [cancer.ca] well-funded, non-profit and/or public sector agencies will step up to the plate to study whether the proposed treatment is safe, and if so, some smart non-intellectual-property-driven and yet profitable [canadiangenerics.ca] organization will market it.
  • In other words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by j_w_d (114171) on Wednesday January 17, 2007 @08:01PM (#17655978)
    Patent lawyers nixed because they won't get a cut. The reasoning is beyond specious. If you consider that drug companies insist that patents are necessary to pay back tremendously expensive research, then you hear, "sorry, we can't produce the drug. It'll be too cheap."

    The idea that a lack of patent would prvent production is silly. Look at aspirin. It is made competively by any number of drug companies and lack of patents doesn't reduce aspirin's availability.
  • bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oohshiny (998054) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @04:18AM (#17660144)
    In the case of DCA, if DCA is a cheap and inexpensive way of treating cancers, then medical insurance and HMOs will have an economic incentive in developing it further because it saves them money.

    Even if there is no economic incentive for drug companies or HMOs to develop a drug like DCA, it can always be tested and approved based on tax-payer funded trials--in the end, that will save the tax payers a lot of money compared to having the drug patented and sold at a premium. Furthermore, often, such drugs somehow manage to get used even without approval through various programs and channels.

    I have my doubts that DCA is the miracle drug the article suggests, but if it is, it's a good thing that it isn't patented: more people will be able to use it and it will cost less.

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly

Working...