Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, October 29, 2007

Removing patent barriers in the pharma industry

Open Access Drugs, ChemSpy, October 29, 2007.  Excerpt:

Should drugs be open access? What about open source? Well, a step towards what some would sees as a utopia and others as the end of pharma R&D, could soon be taken with a proposed legislative bill in the US that seeks to make all pharmaceutical patents public domain.

There are some observers that suggest the existence of a patents culture in the pharma industry stifles research and development. Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, who has argued vehemently against pharma patents for years, has suggested a bounty system for medical cures. Now, Senator Bernie Sanders has taken up Stiglitz’ idea and has proposed a new law in Congress that would set aside US$80 billion a year as an incentive to pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs that would then be put in the public domain.

Technology writer Wayne Smallman is one of several people to suggest that removing the restrictions of patents from the pharmaceutical industry would open up a whole new drug discovery process because even previously unpatentable drugs, such as DCA, for instance, might be developed into marketable products with an injection of cash from something like the Bill Gates Foundation. This idea basically extends the Sanders’ bounty concept to the private funders. After all, $80billion is but a handful of blockbuster products over a ten-year lifespan.

One potential benefit of releasing researchers from the patent bind though is that they will be able to publish their papers that much sooner, which would then hopefully accelerate science still further.