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Drug company gives in?

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  • Scott Geibel
    From NY Times March 15, 2001 Maker Yielding Patent in Africa for AIDS Drug By MELODY PETERSEN and DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. Bristol-Myers Squibb said yesterday that
    Message 1 of 7 , Mar 15 7:34 AM
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      From NY Times
       
      March 15, 2001

      Maker Yielding Patent in Africa for AIDS Drug

      By MELODY PETERSEN and DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

      Bristol-Myers Squibb said yesterday that it would no longer try to stop generic-drug makers from selling low-cost versions of one of its H.I.V. drugs in Africa, making it the second drug company in a week to greatly change its policies in the face of the AIDS epidemic.

      It is extremely rare for a drug maker to yield its rights over a patent, which gives it a monopoly in selling a drug. But the AIDS crisis has subjected the industry to criticism that its prices are keeping millions of poor people in Africa from getting vital care.

      Bristol-Myers holds the patent on a drug known as d4T or stavudine, which is sold under the brand name Zerit, and said it would not use its legal rights to keep lower-cost generic versions of this drug out of South Africa or any other African nation.

      Yale University, which owns the rights to the Zerit patent with Bristol-Myers, said it would go along.

      Bristol-Myers, based in Manhattan, also said it would sharply reduce the price of Zerit and another AIDS drug, ddI or didanosine, which is sold as Videx, in Africa, to a combined price of $1 a day. The company does not own the patent to Videx.

      In the United States, by contrast, one day's dose of the two drugs costs $18, the company said.

      Bristol-Myers's announcement goes beyond sharp price cuts taken last week by Merck & Company on two drugs.

      "This is not about profits and patents," said John L. McGoldrick, executive vice president at Bristol-Myers. "It's about poverty and a devastating disease. We seek no profits on AIDS drugs in Africa, and we will not let our patents be an obstacle."

      Bristol-Myers's move on the patent was praised by many of the activists and health care organizations around the world who have been urging the drug companies to allow generic-drug makers to make cheap versions of lifesaving medicines.

      "This is groundbreaking," said Kate Kraus, a member of Act-Up Philadelphia, a group that has led protests around the world against the big drug makers. "This is the first time that a U.S. drug company has acknowledged that generic drugs are the key to saving lives."

      But the activists questioned why Bristol-Myers was not dropping out of a lawsuit it has filed with the other drug companies in South Africa to keep generic-drug makers from making copycat medicines.

      Bristol-Myers executives said yesterday that the lawsuit was still important because it was aimed at protecting their rights to all prescription drugs, not just AIDS drugs.

      Whether any of the other makers of AIDS drugs will follow Bristol- Myers's move on its drug prices or patents was not clear yesterday. A spokeswoman for Hoffmann-LaRoche said that the company was reviewing what Bristol-Myers had done and did not have a position yet.

      But Nancy Pekarek, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline , the British drug giant, said it was not planning a similar move. The company believes, she said, that it has already reduced the prices of its drugs enough in Africa that there is little need for generic-drug makers to make cheap versions.

      "Our position is that patents are not the issue," Ms. Pekarek said. "The drugs are more affordable than they have ever been."

      GlaxoSmithKline and other drug companies who have offered steep price cuts in Africa say what is now needed is for the governments of wealthy countries, as well as private foundations, to offer financing to the African nations so they can buy the AIDS drugs.

      Bristol-Myers's move could put pressure on the United States government to allow generic companies to make low-cost versions of essential medicines on which the government holds the patent rights. It holds rights to a myriad of drugs — including AIDS drugs like Videx and Hivid, which is also known as ddC and which is sold by Hoffmann — because they were discovered in government labs or by scientists financed by government grants.

      Some activists, including the Consumer Project on Technology, a group founded by Ralph Nader, have asked the National Institutes of Health to give the World Health Organization the right to use patents owned by the United States government to provide cheap medicines for the world's poor.

      A spokesman for the National Institutes of Health said yesterday that the government's position had not changed since 1999 when it responded to the Consumer Project on Technology. Dr. Harold Varmus, the director of the National Institutes of Health at the time, wrote then that the government was worried that such a move would put the system of developing medicines with government research dollars at risk. "It is reasonable to assume that companies will not undertake the development costs of these inventions if they believe the government will readily allow third parties to practice the inventions," Dr. Varmus wrote.

      Pressure has intensified companies to cut the prices of their AIDS drugs in Africa, where 25 million people may be infected with H.I.V. Early last week, protesters marched in South Africa as 39 companies went to court to challenge a law that would allow the country to buy generic substitutes of patented drugs. The protesters demanded that the companies stop the suit and slash prices.

      Then Cipla, a large Indian maker of generic medicines, asked the South African government for permission to sell inexpensive copycat versions of eight anti-H.I.V drugs, including Zerit and Videx.

      Last Thursday, Merck said it would offer its two AIDS medicines, the protease inhibitor Crixivan and another anti-retroviral, Sustiva, at prices that the company said equalled its manufacturing cost.

      Yesterday, Bristol-Myers said its new prices were below its cost. It will cut the price of Zerit to 15 cents a day or 7.5 cents a pill, while the price of Videx will be cut to 85 cents a day.

      But some activists questioned whether the new prices were truly below cost, and noted that Indian generic companies have offered to make Zerit for 5 cents a tablet. And James Love, of the Consumer Project on Technology, said, "We had a quote from a generic company for 22 cents a day for ddI."

    • Paul DEVER
      Wow...this begs the question of how long they have been overcharging us...they are using the market mentallity...those who can pay more, should pay more... But
      Message 2 of 7 , Mar 15 4:35 PM
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        Wow...this begs the question of how long they have been overcharging
        us...they are using the market mentallity...those who can pay more, should
        pay more...


        But their answer would be that of course the rich are subsidizing the
        poor....if we dont make profit, we cannot do research and create better,
        newer, faster drugs...
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      • wiserd@mindspring.com
        The democratic socialist in me (read: not anarchist) makes me ask questions about economics: 1. Doesn t profit (by definition) mean money made over and above
        Message 3 of 7 , Mar 16 7:37 AM
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          The democratic socialist in me (read: not anarchist) makes me ask questions about economics:

          1. Doesn't profit (by definition) mean money made over and above money reinvested in capital and research?

          2. Is it not true that the profit margins of drug companies well exceed those of most other sectors of the economy (and not just by a little bit)?

          3. What proportion of drug research and development is actually funded by sources other than the drug companies (universities, government grants, i.e. our tax dollars)?

          Your anar--whoops, er Republican friend

          Rand


          ujeni@yahoogroups.com wrote:
          > Wow...this begs the question of how long they have been overcharging us...they are using the market mentallity...those who can pay more, should
          pay more...
        • Mark Holland
          You omitted one minor question (perhaps deliberately): 4. what is the average ratio of drug company dollars spent on marketing and promotion to those actually
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 16 7:47 AM
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            You omitted one minor question (perhaps deliberately):

            4. what is the average ratio of drug company dollars spent on marketing and promotion to those actually spent on research, and how might this affect the validity of the
            arguments made by the companies seeking to enforce patent rights outside the first world economies? (last I heard the ratio was > 1/1.)

            M


            wiserd@... wrote:

            > The democratic socialist in me (read: not anarchist) makes me ask questions about economics:
            >
            > 1. Doesn't profit (by definition) mean money made over and above money reinvested in capital and research?
            >
            > 2. Is it not true that the profit margins of drug companies well exceed those of most other sectors of the economy (and not just by a little bit)?
            >
            > 3. What proportion of drug research and development is actually funded by sources other than the drug companies (universities, government grants, i.e. our tax dollars)?
            >
            > Your anar--whoops, er Republican friend
            >
            > Rand
            >
          • Weber
            Rand..If you ever find out the answer to number 3, I d be interested. From what I hear, more and more often the universities are getting their research
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 16 9:40 AM
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              Rand..If you ever find out the answer to number 3, I'd be interested. From
              what I hear, more and more often the universities are getting their research
              funding from the drug companies (also university ag. research from companies
              like Monsanto). The companies who fund the research then have some say in
              the what part of the data does and does not get published. But,
              universities increasingly say that this is the only way that they can fund
              all the research they need to do. What's best...less research or possibly
              biased or at least not necessarily complete information about the results?
              Do you think we, the taxpayers, would be willing to have more government
              dollars spent on research through universities and independent researchers
              to get unbiased or uninfluenced results? I think most people are under the
              impression that is how it is now. Cathy


              -----Original Message-----
              From: wiserd@... <wiserd@...>
              To: ujeni@yahoogroups.com <ujeni@yahoogroups.com>
              Date: Friday, March 16, 2001 7:37 AM
              Subject: Re: Re: [ujeni] Drug company gives in?


              >The democratic socialist in me (read: not anarchist) makes me ask questions
              about economics:
              >
              >1. Doesn't profit (by definition) mean money made over and above money
              reinvested in capital and research?
              >
              >2. Is it not true that the profit margins of drug companies well exceed
              those of most other sectors of the economy (and not just by a little bit)?
              >
              >3. What proportion of drug research and development is actually funded by
              sources other than the drug companies (universities, government grants, i.e.
              our tax dollars)?
              >
              >Your anar--whoops, er Republican friend
              >
              >Rand
              >
              >
              >ujeni@yahoogroups.com wrote:
              >> Wow...this begs the question of how long they have been overcharging
              us...they are using the market mentallity...those who can pay more, should
              >pay more...
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
              >
              >
            • Paul DEVER
              Based onm the latest spate of drug ads. ( I can barely read my magazines for all the crap falling out, and all the big hptos of people healthy, and then turing
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 16 4:29 PM
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                Based onm the latest spate of drug ads. ( I can barely read my magazines for
                all the crap falling out, and all the big hptos of people healthy, and then
                turing the page to see the size 4.5 font used to detail all the side
                effects....the best one I know is a certain type of leakage associated with
                the olean fat substitute for potato chips and stuff...
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              • Paul DEVER
                We would be better off just sitting at the bottlestores forgetting about life around us and drink the gleens and blowns...
                Message 7 of 7 , Mar 17 12:12 AM
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                  We would be better off just sitting at the bottlestores forgetting about
                  life around us and drink the gleens and blowns...
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