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Big Pharma Presses US To Quash Cheap Drug Production In India 255

An anonymous reader writes "Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), are leaning on the United States government to discourage India from allowing the production and sale of affordable generic drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. India is currently on the U.S. government's Priority Watch List — countries whose practices on protecting intellectual property Washington believes should be monitored closely. Last year Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the Indian Supreme court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. Western drugmakers Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche Holding, Sanofi, and others have a bigger share of the fast-growing drug market in India. But they have been frustrated by a series of decisions on patents and pricing, as part of New Delhi's push to increase access to life-saving treatments in a place where only 15 percent of 1.2 billion people are covered by health insurance. One would certainly understand and probably agree with the need for for cheaper drugs. But don't forget that big pharma, for all its problems still is the number one creator of new drugs. In 2012 alone, the U.S. government and private companies spent a combined $130 billion (PDF) on medical research."
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Big Pharma Presses US To Quash Cheap Drug Production In India

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  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday February 07, 2014 @07:55PM (#46191277) Homepage

    that poor people die because they cannot buy the cheap drugs that may save their lives than a few rich western pharma lose any profit. :-(

    Let them produce cheap drugs for local consumption. OK don't allow them to be imported to the west where (most) people can afford them. But condemning people to die just to protect your profits is, frankly, sick. Maybe not much different from tobacco companies, but still sick.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @07:56PM (#46191283) Journal

    Wow. I hate to be the guy asking "why is this on Slashdot", but WTF? This is a purely political click-trolling story. This is not what Slashdot is for.

    You know, I'm actually OK with the blatant Slashvertisements, as long as they're geek-interest products. Man's got to pay the bills; I understand. But this pure-political story BS needs to stop!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:01PM (#46191317)

    The Medicare/Medicaid drug reimbursement is already more than the private cost of research (plus reasonable production costs for those drugs).

  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:02PM (#46191325)
    Big Oil, Big Automotive, Big Chance-I-Stop-Paying-Attention.

    Just because you think all large companies are evil doesn't mean everyone else does.
  • Karma (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:04PM (#46191355)

    That's what you get for outsourcing the drug manufacturing to India...

  • by dk20 ( 914954 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:21PM (#46191467)
    You don't really believe things like the "FDA" is what is driving up the price to you?

    Canada has an equivalent system (Health Canada) and cheaper drugs then the US. We also have a different copyright system which allows generic drugs to be available sooner. Wonder if that helps drive the prices down?

    US Solution? Ban cheap canadian drugs from canada as they were "not tested" or such.
  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:28PM (#46191515)

    The drug is Gleevec, not Glivec. I take it, and it's a miracle drug for those it helps. And it's expensive as HECK!

    Novartis had its 17 years of patent protection. Invented prior 1996, the first patent expired in 2013, and so Novartis decided to seek a patent on a slightly altered version, to gain 20 year protection. The Indian court saw through this and said No way. Good on them.
    The drug has paid back its development costs many multiple times already.

    This is a common tactic of drug manufacturers as their patents run our they suddenly find a way to color it pink or something equally trivially unimportant change and try to start the patent clock all over. This is a total subversion of the purpose behind patents.

  • by trims ( 10010 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:34PM (#46191557) Homepage

    The current crop (and the future crops, too) of drugs were NEVER intended to have to recoup costs out of non-developed-world countries.

    In fact, pretty much ALL drug research is based solely on the American market. That is, everything else outside the American market is gravy (or, in this case, pure profit). The metrics are driven by how long it takes to recoup money from the USA's market.

    The reason why is that the US drug market (due to a combination of large population, and completely unregulated pricing) is so much more lucrative than anywhere else, by an order of magnitude even more than Western Europe. That's right - the USA alone brings in more profit THAN THE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD for a drug.

    Letting India manufacture these domestically (and, heck, the entire rest of the developed world) wouldn't affect drug research and investment strategies one little bit. The big fear from drug companies is reimportation, where drugs manufactured in India are imported back into the USA for sale, without the major patent premium being paid. This is fairly trivially avoidable.

    So, yeah, in the end, it's about squeezing that last dime in profits out of people, and not fundamentally giving a damned about anything else.

  • Re:Fuck Beta (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:35PM (#46191575) Journal

    There's a word for people who keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome.

    Personally, I'm rather tired of seeing this shit on every single story... I don't like beta either, but all this repeated drivel does, which can only be classified as off-topic and essentially spam, is actively degrade what usefulness the website actually has before beta even becomes mandatory.

    So shut the fuck up... I'm pretty sure they heard you the first time. If you don't think that they are listening, then repeating yourself isn't going to solve anything, and thinking it will do anything other than annoy people who want to enjoy what's left of slashdot while it lasts, is... well... as I said above, there's a word for that.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:48PM (#46191655)

    You don't really believe things like the "FDA" is what is driving up the price to you?

    Have a little respect. Here in the US such beliefs are a religion to some people. Must be Satan (a/k/a the FDA) driving the prices up, let the Holy Market prevail! Ok, it actually is the gubmint, but the part that's responsible for enforcing monopolies for ever greater profit, not the FDA.

    US Solution? Ban cheap canadian drugs from canada as they were "not tested" or such.

    Yeah, same drugs from the same factory, but they're magically tainted by passing through Canada. OTOH you have some online pharmacies (legitimate outfits) that will drop ship the stuff to people in the US.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:48PM (#46191657) Journal

    What a day it would be if instead of lobbying the USA gov't to do more to deny individual freedoms, corporations like these lobbied to INCREASE individual freedoms

    The last thing any big corporation wants is "individual freedom". The last thing the ruling elite want is "individual freedom".

    John Galt is a virulent sociopath. He's managed to take every aspect of the Enlightenment and twist it and corrupt it until people don't know which way is up. America was a pretty impressive experiment, even with all its faults. The system had enough freedoms built in that a couple times a century there would be advances in the middle class, shared prosperity and disenfranchised populations gaining political power. Those days are over. Probably forever.

  • Re:Jai Hind! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:49PM (#46191663)

    That "safe" has a few meanings, such as ensuring there are no materials in the drugs that should not be there. Ensuring that the drugs contain what they are supposed to contain, and that the levels are correct.

    How about assuring that the drug doesn't doesn't actually kill you?

    Safety is one aspect, effectiveness is another. Neither should be left in the hands of drug developers.

    We've been down that path before. Every civilized country in the world over sees and regulates the development of drugs. Many countries simply accept the EU or US regulations because they are too small to support their own programs.

    We let big Tobacco self regulate right up to 2009. Had the FDA started regulating them in the 30s when it became apparent how bad smoking was who knows how many lives would have been changed.

  • by dmbasso ( 1052166 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:58PM (#46191725)

    The reason is pretty clear, it is about Imaginary Property (IP). The same pixie dust that makes copyright, trademarks, and patents.

    And they're bullying a poor country like "hey, all these medicines that we were not going to sell because you can't afford, you are not allowed to make them yourselves; tell your population to just die." Yeah, pretty nice.

  • Huge success (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HalfFlat ( 121672 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:35PM (#46192073)
    Hundreds of billions spent on drug development, primarily driven by state investment and infrastructure, and billions of people in India and elsewhere gain significant health benefits. Really, this is the way it is supposed to work. That some private individuals are not making as large a personal profit is purely their own problem.
  • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:40PM (#46192113)

    The argument is that if India does this the rest will follow and then the companies will not be able to make up their research costs

    The problem for the devil's argument is that Pharma spends double the amount on advertizing that they do on research. This is about a greedy industry seeking to extract every last dollar it can, even if it means some poor folks on the other side of the planet will die. Not recouping research costs.

  • by dmbasso ( 1052166 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:55PM (#46192219)

    I love how pointing out greed can be interpreted as communism. Gotta admire Faux News & co. brainwashing efficiency.

  • Re:Jai Hind! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:03PM (#46192277)

    At the same time, what gets neglected in these debates is that the Government "should" have a small role in the industry. Primarily, making sure that the drugs being sold are safe.

    Why not a large role. As in, publicly finance 100% of drug research, since the worst university could piss away 50% of it's funding and still have a better return than Pharma, who spend more than that on stock options and advertizing.

  • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:08PM (#46192319)

    Wow. I hate to be the guy asking "why is this on Slashdot", but WTF? This is a purely political click-trolling story. This is not what Slashdot is for.

    I don't hate to be the guy to ask you, but did you really just fall off the turnip truck? This is a story on drug patents. Slashdot runs stories on patents and greedy companies extracting money from them allllll the fucking time, and twice on Thursdays.

  • Re:Karma (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:09AM (#46192997)

    Actually, to legally copy a drug in India, you'd have to come up with a new process for manufacturing it. Indian IP law recognizes only manufacturing processes, not the final chemicals themselves or the purpose for which they're used.

    Case in point: in America, you can take a drug like Proscar, approved in 5mg strength for treating prostate problems, and get a brand new patent for a 1mg strength used for hair growth. In India, you'd be politely told, "No" when you applied for the second patent, because as far as Indian IP law is concerned, unless you come up with a new way to manufacture the drug, you've done nothing worthy of patent protection.

    The same goes for extended-release forms. If you're taking an old drug and coating bits with dissolving coating, India will yawn and say, "sorry, no new patent for you. " You'd have to come up with something groundbreaking, like OROS ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org] ), which makes drugs that would otherwise have intolerably-short half-lives viable.

    Although Indian IP law doesn't regard ER forms as necessarily being special, India's unwillingness to allow patents on anything besides the manufacturing process actually opens the door to Indian pharmaceutical companies releasing ER forms LONG before the original patent expires, and before the American developer of the original drug comes out with its own version. If an Americana pharma company gets a patent on a drug & plans to wait until the first patent is about to expire before patenting an ER form, an Indian company who comes up with an alternate manufacturing process can blow their plan out of the water and release an improved ER form YEARS sooner.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:00AM (#46193215)

    Much of the expense, and focus, of drug research of the US is on new patents, not on new treatments.

    Let me take you a visit to the world of patent history: Welcome to insulin, which was released *with a free patent* because of its discoverer's desire to help humanity, immediately. The *refinement* and processing of insulin has, fortunately for profits, been filled with many patentable processes. Business has benefited, and there have actually been useful improvements in its purity, which helps prevent allergic reactions, and its price. The original refinement from slaughterhouse fetuses, to avoid contamination by pancreatic juices, was effective but unsustainable as we diabetics survived longer and became a larger market. Refinement from pancreases from adult slaughterhouse animals filled the supply, and was very profitable for decades.

    But the last round of significant patents was running out. Factories worldwide were geared up to operate, outside the control of the Eli Lilly company, and to halve the price of insulin. What to do, what to do? Wait! We can patent *human* insulin! By first modifying animal insulin with new ly patented enzyme treatments, and by eventually using genetically modified e.coli to produce it without animals, we now have "pure human" insulin, to the benefit of diabetics worldwide! It's human insulin, what could be better?

    The answer is that almost all other sources of insulin better. Human insulin is faster acting, but that's pointless when you're wearing an insulin pump and the updake is much faster *anyway*. The claims about animal insulin leading to insulin resistance or allergy were due to the *impurities*, which are almost nonexistent in modern processing of animal insulins. And human insulin actually contributes to hypoglycemic unawareness which gave me one heck of a time when I couldn't get animal insulin anymore. (I tried!) Human insulin does not provide a single benefit over animal insulin to its users, and the deficits are very real. Other fast acting insulin mixtures, have been available for *decades, and long acting versions for different shot based insulin treatments. They're now all now replaced by "human" insulins that are roughly twice the price, even with inflation

    So as a diabetic who's faced this sort of thing, the "Big Pharma" companies can go play "Rites of Spring" on my !@#$. They've demonstrated that they prefer profits on new and actively inferior patent-ptoected products over the health and safety of millions of medication who absolutely require this medication. I cut companies like Lilly *no* slack in legislation or in the courts or in global treaties. They've abused us for decades, and I hope their leadership rots.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN