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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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  • Jai Hind! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @07:54PM (#46191269)
    This is real News for Nerds. We need to support this effort by India to bust the pharma monopoly if we are ever going to afford medical care in this country. It doesn't matter whether that care is public or private; either style of payment encounters the same tsunami of uncontrolled cost.

    But of course, reams of whiny butthurt over the proposed new appearance of Slashdot trumps all real issues this week. Will you crybabies please boycott the site as you have promised and let the rest of us get back to discussing real issues? You're like those Hollywood cokebrains who promise to leave the US whenever some Republican gets elected, but who let us down every time.

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

    by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:07PM (#46191373)

    I agree with the meat of your statement. 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.

    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. Legally today, our supposedly "controlled" environment can get away with giving you 80% of what they are supposed to give you. They can put trace levels of mercury into vaccines too, so our "controlled" environment is not doing so well.

    Point being, yes there should not be this nasty monopoly. Further, there should be more law suits for false advertising against drug agencies, and many people should be in jail for releasing dangerous drugs without advising the public to the dangers (Guardasil).

    Our "Government" is failing on all accounts. Not the agents fault mind you, but the agencies fault.

  • by user317 ( 656027 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:25PM (#46191493)

    So let me be the devils advocate here,

    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 to facilitate the development of new drugs, since the current batch of drugs was researched with the expectation of selling them worldwide.

    If pharmaceutical companies are making that much money, why doesn't India create their own state or private pharmaceutical companies (or buy a stake in Pfizer) and use the profits to pay for local drugs? India has an enormous pool of talented researchers and a big enough budget to accomplish this. As they argue, the profits are so large then there is no way they could lose money. That would be a win win for everyone.

  • FTFY (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:26PM (#46191497)

    >big pharma [...] is the number one creator of new drugs
    >big pharma [...] is the number one creator of upper-class-only drugs

    Fixed that for you. Do I have to fix the shitty beta too?

    What's the point of creating new drugs if no one can make and use them?

    >big pharma [...] is the number one creator of upper-class-only drugs

    And are we worried that will change? The number one creator will instead be the middle-class "commoners"? Makers gonna make? Gonna make something THE HUMAN FUCKING RACE will benefit from?

    How dreadful. Almost as dreadful as the /.beta


  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:02PM (#46192261) Journal

    Gray markets are a real problem though. People in the US already buy drugs from India, and someone has to pay for drug research. (Of course, a true communist would reply: it will be free, because taxes will pay for it.)

  • by AcidPenguin9873 ( 911493 ) on Friday February 07, 2014 @10:16PM (#46192381)

    Large, influential industries that wouldn't think a second before sending your job overseas for third world labor

    Except that they didn't do that when developing these drugs. They paid first-world salaries for research, development, testing, more testing, still more testing, even more testing, and then regulation compliance. Without those first-world costs, there's no drug that you want to sell for third-world prices.

    want the USG to make sure said third world labor pays first-world prices for their drugs.

    The world wants the US to foot the bill for their drug research, and then once that hard part is done, sell the drugs for materials and menial labor cost? I don't think so. If the prices are so far out of balance, why don't they start their own drug research institute with third-world salaries, testing, and regulations?

  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:05AM (#46192981) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Modafinal is a drug available from India on the cheap http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]
    commercially it was being sold as Provigil.

    The article I didn't read hits upon this drug, I've purchased it a few times from India as Provigil (with a prescription), it's come I'm sure as modafinil.

    Provigil's patent was to expire in 2012 thus begot Nuvigil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org] which is slower acting, Provigil's patent was renewed for a very long time, I haven't got an answer to when, but told it's no time soon.

    Nuvigil runs around $20 a tablet, Provigil $25 a box of 50 (India), Provigil isn't being sold anymore (in the US) that I know of just kept for it's patent.

    Modafinal is your basic generic drug, everything after is research.

    In the case of Newvigil, it being such an exceptional drug they are asking for more than it's worth, where as Modafinal being virtually the same thing, is asking it's manufacture price and a bit of profit.

  • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @03:54AM (#46193773)

    ...someone has to pay for drug research...

    Well, that $130 Billion works out to about $415 per person in the US. Government and charaties and the like paid about half of that and "industry" paid the other half. Total healthcare spending from that same PDF was $2,939 Billion (although those numbers are a bit confusing because it seems to include the money industry spent on the research added to the amount industry was paid by patients). In any case, that's about $9390 per person in the US, or around 45 times the amount industry spent on research. So, if a few percent of total healthcare spending goes towards the pharm/biotech/medical devices industry, they're doing just fine. Also the answer to who is paying for medical research is that the taxpayers and patients are. Frankly, if you look at the math, it's pretty ridiculous. If half of the research costs aren't going to be paid by industry anyway, and it's such a small fraction of the total healthcare costs, why not just double or triple what the government is paying for research and stop giving a cent of it to for profit industries. Then, do all the research through public research institutions and relegate industry to a manufacturing role. Let them all be 'generic' manufacturers competing on production of the same drugs. In the meantime the few extra percent that would raise total healthcare expenditure by would be offset by the much larger drop in healthcare spending due to the fact that a bunch of artificial monopolies just vanished.
    Now, I know it's tragic that people who didn't pay might also benefit from this research. Even worse than the people in other countries are the untold future generations of humans who will also benefit with better health and happier lives without paying for it. Bunch of filthy freeloading descendants.

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:03AM (#46193819)
    Effective my ass. Big drug companies want to keep you alive and still partially sick so you pay them your entire life savings. They don't cure anything. They just magically make all the symptoms disappear and keep you alive unless you stop taking them. You think they want to cure seasonal allergies? Hell no! They get a good chunk of my income on allergy meds. They can either make the money once on a cure or once a day forever. Hmm, I wonder.
  • Re:Jai Hind! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:10AM (#46193849)
    The original patent on sildenafil expired in 2012 and now you can get generic sildenafil in the US. The '446 patent that claims using sildenafil to treat erectile disfunction hasn't expired yet. Canada threw out the '446 Viagra patent because it didn't spell out which of the eleventy bazillion compounds it claimed was actually tested and proven to work.
  • Re:XR Drugs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sirlark ( 1676276 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @05:09AM (#46194033)

    I don't know if AC's get notified about reponses to their comments, but either way, this question goes out in response.

    We tried making an "extra strength" version of our biggest seller, Patanol, a few years ago and lost. We had to come up with a lot of changes to get the once-a-day version approved.

    The phrase "come up with" implies some measure of deliberate but spurious inventiveness, as if you made the changes exclusively to get a new patent, rather than to improve the drug itself. While the grandparent's post mentioned adding pink dye, and that surely is a trival change, if you are "coming up" with changes, it sound like your are fixing something that isn't broken, and the only reason your tinkering beyond adding a dye is precisely because that is not enough to get a patent. In other words, you are ding precisely enough to get more money (as a company), rather than making the best possible drug.

    So, genuine questions here:

    Why do you think such behaviour should be rewarded?

    Why should limited tinkering that was done to change the drug without the eventual aim of improvement extend a patent?

  • Re:Jai Hind! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @05:59AM (#46194227)

    Because corporates such as the Pharma companies own your politicians?

    I just love the line "But don't forget that big pharma, for all its problems still is the number one creator of new drugs.".

    Install government-backed monopolies. Let universities use any public grants to research drugs and then sell the patents from that research to said companies. Allow them to buy legislation and orgs like the FDA outright. Turn a blind eye to 1,000,000 dodgy and anticompetitive practices.
    Allow said companies to completely rort your entire medical system to the point of obscenity.

    etc etc
    "But don't forget they make most of the wonder drugs!"

    And meanwhile people go bankrupt, remain unwell and of course DIE due to all this complete BS.

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982