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March 04, 2015

Pharma Lobbies, Inefficient Patents and the Stakes for Affordable Healthcare

Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker and Arjun Jayadev write in this Project Syndicate article about Obamacare and the potential impact of pharmaceutical lobbying on affordable healthcare globally.


Their comments include:


"... the Obama administration is seeking a trade deal with India that would weaken competition from generics, thereby making lifesaving drugs unaffordable for billions of people – in India and elsewhere... In the 1970s, India abolished pharmaceutical patents, creating an advanced and efficient generics industry capable of providing affordable medicines to people throughout the developing world. That changed in 2005, when the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) forced India to allow drug patents... India sets the bar quite high [for standards for what is considered a “novel” product], resulting in its refusal to grant patents for new combinations of existing drugs... If the Obama administration succeeds in forcing India to strengthen its patent laws, the change would harm not only India and other developing countries; it would also enshrine a grossly corrupt and inefficient patent system in the US, in which companies increase their profits by driving out the competition..."


Supporting this line of argument, Dylan Mohan Gray made a documentary called Fire in the Blood. As this article by him in the Guardian explains:


" 84% of worldwide funding for drug discovery research comes from government and public sources, against just 12% from pharma companies, which on average spend 19 times more on marketing than they do on basic research...90% of drug patents have no meaningful clinical advantages for patients, but nonetheless impede access..."


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