Everyone is upset about the price of gasoline at the pumps. Yet I keep reminding myself that there must be some oil stocks in my pension funds so it can’t be all bad – can it?
I heard a very interesting talk the other day about speculation in the oil industry. Speculators are driving up the price of oil not the big oil companies. Not OPEC. Not big government. But speculators.
Now speculation in the commodities markets is nothing new. Speculation over the price of tulip bulbs 400 hundred years ago destroyed the economy of The Netherlands and ended that country’s attempts at empire-building. Investments and fortunes being made around the speculation about the price of gold have been around for decades. Now that there are thousands of real estate foreclosures in the US, land speculators are moving in, buying up properties for pennies on the dollar, and speculating that the inherent value of land will rise in the future. Likewise there are speculators out there driving up the price of oil too – big time.
But what does this have to do with patients and patents – plenty maybe. When I used to teach a graduate course in health policy I used to always ask my students when analyzing a policy, cui bono? Who benefits? In this case, who benefits from the abolition of patent protection for research-based pharamaceutical companies? Well, certainly not the patients as innovation for new cures and vaccines will roaringly grind to a halt without the incentive of patents. Not the small shareholders of the affected firms that’s for sure. Also, not doctors and hospitals as an increasing amount of their good work is pharamceutical based which keeps patients living longer healthier lives and keeps hospital costs down.
NGO’s and bloggers would have you believe that developing countries would benefit – but they wouldn’t. Nearly 100% of all WHO-designated essential medicines are off-patent now and the remainder are available free or at special discounted prices. The problem here is the lack of infrastrucsture, security and rule of law to allow products to be delivered to the patients in these countries.
So who could conceivably benefit from the voiding of drug patents, compulsory licensing, open-access compund libraries and all the other assorted attacks on the protection of intellectual property contained in the WHO’s IGWG strategy? Speculators. Speculators who would short the research-based pharmaceutical companies and reap huge rewards from their existing investments in generic manufacturers. Of course, their gains would be short-term but enormous – and all at the expense of patients around the world.
The question that needs to be asked is who funds these NGOs, lawyers and bloggers who have waged this campaign against drug patents? As the old saying goes, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the financial backers of these NGOs, lawyers and blogs are also the speculators who would love to see – and profit immensely – from the demise of intellectual property protection for pharamaceuticals.
Come clean guys; expose yourselves; disclose your funders and your links with copiers and patent pirates;- much of this is about personal gain, at the expense of lives around the world.