[Ip-health] Mike Masnick in TechDirt on the Fabrazyme March-In

James Love james.love at keionline.org
Thu Aug 5 03:49:10 PDT 2010


Mike Masnick is a widely read computer and software reporter.  The
Fabrazyme story caught his eye:

*  "It's a travesty that federally funded research has been locked up
under a patent and limited to only one producer, leading not only to
very high prices for the drug, but also excessively limited supply that
is putting people lives in danger, and may have already killed one
person."

http://techdirt.com/articles/20100803/01315810466.shtml

Patents Getting In The Way Of Saving Lives; Fabry Disease Sufferers
Petition US Gov't To Step In

from the patent-problems dept

Aug 3rd 2010, Mike Masnick, TechDirt.Com

Whenever I read stories like this one, it just makes me wonder how
people can defend patents in certain situations. Genzyme is a pharma
firm that has a patent on a drug, Fabrazyme, which is used to treat
Fabry disease, an enzyme deficiency that can create very serious
problems in those who have it -- including kidney failure and heart
attacks. The problem? Genzyme apparently can't produce the supply needed
by patients. Now, in a true free market, when supply was less than
demand, a competitor would step up production, but (oh wait!) there
can't be any competitor, because the patent means that Genzyme is
currently the only one legally allowed to make the drug. Now a group of
patients who have been forced to ration their dosage at one-third the
usual amounts, leading to serious health problems and at least one
death, has petitioned the government for the right to break the patent. 

They're not trying to completely strip Genzyme of the patent. They're
merely asking the government to let others produce the drug, and pay
Genzyme a mandated 5% royalty. Now, I know the typical response from
patent system supporters: without the patent, perhaps this drug wouldn't
even exist. The only problem with that is that it's almost certainly not
true. The actual research for Fabrazyme was actually done by the Mount
Sinai School of Medicine financed by the National Institute of Health.
Yes, you read that right. This drug was discovered with taxpayer
money... but they were still able to get a patent and then license it to
Genzyme. 

Chances are this petition won't be approved. These petitions are never
approved. But it does highlight the ridiculousness of the current patent
system potentially putting people at risk. It's a travesty that
federally funded research has been locked up under a patent and limited
to only one producer, leading not only to very high prices for the drug,
but also excessively limited supply that is putting people lives in
danger, and may have already killed one person.


===============
So far there are 42 comments on the story on the TechDirt web page
-- 
James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org | http://www.twitter.com/jamie_love
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