There’s been some debate recently over whether recent studies show that the lack of pharmaceutical patent laws didn’t stifle, and perhaps even accelerated, the development of innovative drugs in Italy. (Italy did not join the global intellectual enclosure movement with regard to drug research until 1978.)
I haven’t read the paper and I don’t know that much about pharmaceutical research and marketing processes to begin with, so I don’t know how much water the study holds. (For the pro, see Samizdata (2006-01-09): Can pharmaceuticals be developed without patents? and Kevin Carson (2006-01-23): Alex Singleton: The Effect of Patents on Drug R&D; for the anti, see the comments sections and Joshua Holmes (2006-01-24): On the Italian Pharmaceutical Industry.) My interest here isn’t to ajudicate the dispute. Maybe patent monopolies accelerate new drug production; maybe they stifle it; maybe they don’t affect it at all. The usual moral and economic arguments against intellectual property apply regardless of what effects patents happen to have on the velocity of pharma R&D. What I do intend to do is once again ridicule self-proclaimed free marketeers who throw it all overboard to indulge in the crudest forms of corporate protectionist argument when it comes to so-called intellectual property. Thus:
It takes a $500 million and 12 to 15 years to discover and bring a significant drug to market today. Who is going to invest that kind of money without patent protection?
Posted by Jake at January 9, 2006 03:14 AM
To those of you who think patents are unnecessary:
Why don’t you take out a huge loan (say $500,000,000), invest it in the R&D and production of a new drug, and then send me a copy of your findings. That way I will be able to produce the drugs and sell them to the public myself without having to invest all that money.
No rational person would invest such a huge amount of time and money into pharma if there wasnt a protection in place that made it possible for them to make a profit off of their findings. …
Without the patent protection there would be far less innovation in pharmaceuticals, and without the time limit on the patent, prices would remain unnecessarily high. Both aspects are necessary, so we put up with high prices for awhile to encourage the future production of new drugs. …
Posted by Ryan at January 28, 2006 04:10 PM
Without a protective tariff, what rational person is going to invest in American automobiles? In a free market, who will be in charge of making the shoes?
The horrors we face are numerous. Pharmaceutical companies may have to re-evaluate their business plans. If people can’t make a profit on in-house research and development for new drugs, then drug research will have to be done, God forbid, out of house or by not-for-profit organizations!
A special prize goes to Shannon Love, for the accomplishment of combining crass protectionism in the name of the
free market with an overtly state-constructivist theory of property rights in the name of denouncing state socialism, and topped off with the most absurd non sequitur of the entire thread:
We basically have two choices in managing intellectual resources of all kinds: (1) a private property system with all its warts or (2) socialism. If a decision-making about a resource cannot be effectively allocated to private entities via a property mechanism then state will allocate the resource via politics.
The destruction of intellectual property rights will inevitably lead to a new era of sweeping socialism, except in this era it will not be factories that get nationalized but research, art, software and media. State sponsored intellectual products will push private ones out of the market because only the state backed products will have a secure source of funding. …
So make your choice. If you want to live in a world where politicians control the production of virtually all information then by all means pirate media and violate patents but if you want to have some freedom and some hope that people can actually make a living producing information, then you should think long and hard how to make intellectual property systems work.
Posted by Shannon Love at January 9, 2006 03:59 PM
Because, of course, the world owes a living to people
producing information, and what better way to ensure that than by
allocating them proprietary control over my mind and my copying equipment?
After all, if folks can’t make their living
producing information for profit, then some of the work will have to be done by means other than a for-profit retail business model. Some of it may even, God forbid, be left to rank amateurs!
How will we ever survive?
Look, the same lessons still apply. Before you have a successful reductio ad absurdam the conclusion of the lemma must actually be absurd.