All patents should be removed on anti-retroviral drugs to fight AIDS
Last updated: March 2, 2017
Every AIDS patient deserves humanitarian care and medicinal treatment, irrespective of where s/he is from or the laws of his/her Country. "In the case of Taxol, BMS claims to a bevy of patents on processes and patent regimes,blocking generic products in many countries." [[http://lists.essential.org/pharm-policy/msg00352.html]]
Patents constitute physical and economic barriers to treatment of HIV/AIDS patients
AIDS is an incurable disease which results from infection with the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are the only way to extend the lives of people infected by HIV. Without treatment most HIV/AIDS patients would die quickly, but treatment with ARVs can double their life expectancy, and also improve the quality of their lives.
The patents on ARVs limit the freedom to manufacture these life-saving drugs and also hike the cost of treatment, thereby barring most patients from obtaining such treatment. Therefore, it is clear that the removal of patents on ARVs would remove two significant obstacles in the fight against AIDs:
1) Physical barriers to the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients
2) Economic barriers to the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients
Removal of Physical Barriers to the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients
The patents on ARV drugs limit the manufacture of these drugs to a few companies and in some cases to certain countries. Consequently ARVS are not readily available to HIV/AID patients across the world.
The removal of patents on ARVS would allow more companies and governments in affected countries to freely manufacture ARVS for the treatment of their citizens. Consequently, this would facilitate worldwide distribution of ARVS, and facilitate a ready supply of anti-retroviral drugs in all regions of the world.
Removal of Economic Barriers to the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients
In so far as patents limit the availability of ARVS across the world, they create an artificial shortage which hikes ARV drug prices in all countries. In addition, in countries where ARVS are not manufactured, the cost of treatment is further hiked by drug importation costs, such as transport charges, freight costs, insurance, port duties, etc. As a result, ARV treatment is simply too expensive for most HIV/AIDS patients.
The removal of patents on ARVS would not only prevent artificial shortages, it would also increase price competition and lower ARV drug prices to reasonable amounts. Lower treatment costs would lead to increased access to ARV treatment for all patients, irrespective of their personal wealth.
The proposition team themselves points out that anti-retroviral drugs are not a cure for HIV/AIDS but simply a means of extending the lives of people suffering from HIV. Even for that the drugs we currently have are far from perfect: the drugs can have serious side effects[[http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=ar-05-01]], but moreover patients need to follow strict regimens in order for the treatment to work, not adhering to the regimen can cause the virus to develop resistance to the treatment[[http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12617573]]. This means there needs to be constant development work done on new drugs and treatment regimens to address these issues.
Regarding patents as economic barriers:
There are other less harmful ways to make drugs more accessible to poor people. Such as funding from charities, foundations or international plans.
Removing patents would allow generic drugs producers to produce anti-retroviral drug cheaply, because there is no ingredient in the drugs that justifies their high price, it is the years of work put into development that makes the expensive. Removing patents will mean further development work will cease because drug companies can no longer earn back the huge investment they need to make. Generic drug companies will not have effective drugs to produce in the future once the virus has become resistant to the treatments currently available, if there is no one to do the development. In the long run everyone is still worse off.
Removing patents will have no effect on "drug importation costs, such as transport charges, freight costs, insurance, port duties, etc". These are indeed actual barriers to spreading anti-retroviral drugs in poor countries, especially in Africa[[http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidinthenews/articles/jama_101701.html]] and these cannot be addressed by the removal of patents.
The treatment of HIV/AIDS patients should not be restricted in order to make profit.
It is a simplistic approach to simply say that HIV/AIDS is incurable and fatal it is therefore unjust to be making a profit on anti-retroviral drugs. Almost any disease, if left untreated will result in death. We still think it is fine for developers of drugs to ask money for their work, just as we allow doctors to earn a pay for their work of saving people.
We will argue that by allowing drug companies to make a profit we are actually improving the situation of people with HIV/AIDS.
AIDS is a terrible condition that causes suffering. This suffering needs to be reduced. In order for this suffering to be reduced, anti-retroviral drugs are needed. These need to be first developed and then produced by large drug companies. People respond to incentives. The prospect for making a profit is an incentive. This prospect is guaranteed by patents on new drugs. This has been recognized by drug companies who in their pursuit for profit have developed a wide variety of anti-retroviral drugs that improve and extend the lives of many around the world.
In this case the greed of the pharmaceutical developers leads to the humanitarian ends of treating HIV/AIDS.
Patents on ARVs prevent drug companies from collaborating in the search for a cure for AIDS
As long as the patents exist, it is unlikely that these companies will share their resources and information in order to develop a cure for AIDS. As a direct result, the AIDS epidemic has been fed and sustained by the patents on ARVs.
Thus, under the current patent regime, the profit 'incentive' is actually a disincentive to finding a cure for millions of HIV/AIDS victims.
In view of this fact, we believe that the opposition should concede that in the fight against AIDS, greed is bad.
Importance of patents in incentivizing pharmaceutical research
Patents are a form of property protection that are necessary to ensure returns on the capital invested into inventions.
Invention of new drugs requires an enormous investment of both intellectual and financial capital. However after a drug has been invented, then in the case of no patents, the company who invested into the research of the drug would have no advantage over other companies who might wish to produce that drug. The ability of the company to sell the drug wouldn't depend on whether the company invented it. This means that once the company has invented a drug it would have no ability to protect both the financial and intellectual capital it has invested into creating the drug.
Invention of new drugs is capital intensive for three main reasons:
1. It takes a long time to develop new drugs. This is mainly because of government regulation, which requires companies to extensively test the drug before it is marketed so it would be safe for the consumers. In this case government is imposing costs on pharmaceutical companies, it would only be fair if by granting patent protection the government would allow companies to get their investments back.
2. Stemming from the definition of the term “patent”, patents enable the disclosure of innovations into the public domain for the common good. Without this protection, the inventor might prefer to keep the innovation as a secret (called a trade secret). The act of awarding a patent makes the details of the invention public, enabling further improvement by other inventors. Furthermore, being published on public records ensures that the patentee’s idea won’t be lost to humanity. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent#Effects]]
3. Pharmaceutical research is high risk. When starting work on a new drug there is no ability to tell if it will succeed. Many experimental drugs don't work or have adverse side-effects, however the company still has to cover their costs. Through trial and error process, effective drugs eventually emerge, but when they are sold by the company their cost has to include the cost of the failed drugs born by the company. This is because the company has to stay afloat, pay the salaries of it's scientists, secretaries, janitors.
4. In several industries (such as pharmaceuticals), once an invention exists, the cost of commercialization is far less than the initial cost of conception. Unless there is some way to prevent copies from competing at the marginal cost of production, companies will not make that productization investment and simply neglect their idea. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_and_patents]]
Given this analysis we want to prove that patents are good and necessary in terms of encouraging research. Considering the amount of work and money companies put into research and the social good that comes out of the development of new drugs companies have the right to spread the cost of their research over the period of the patent. Governments have to ensure this right, otherwise why should the companies be expected to develop drugs, if they can't reap the fruits of their labor? Quite simply if governments don't provide patent protection companies won't conduct research.
We think the proposition would agree with us that patents are generally necessary and important and that companies have a right to their inventions. Otherwise they would propose abolishing all pharmaceutical patents, but the motion states abolishing patents only on anti-retroviral drugs to fight AIDS.
We think the opposition would agree that governments owe a duty of care to their citizens when a humanitarian crisis or emergency occurs.
AIDS is a global epidemic.
The AIDS epidemic has claimed more than 25 million lives since 1981.
[[UNAIDS 2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic]].
The statistics are frightening, but they speak for themselves:
1) As of 2007, about 33 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS; developing countries accounted for 95% of this total.
2) Africa has 11.6 million AIDS orphans.
3) Young people (under 25 years old) account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
4) In developing and transitional countries, 9.7 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 2.99 million (31%) are receiving the drugs.
It is apparent from these statistics that the AIDS epidemic is a humanitarian crisis. Consequently, governments worldwide have a duty to respond to this crisis by making ARV treatment fully accessible to their people through the removal of ARV patents.
During a crisis, economic gain ceases to be a consideration. This was the case with disasters such as the 2004 Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 1984/1985 famine in Ethiopia.
In the same vein, the humanitarian imperative to fight the AIDS epidemic and save lives far outweighs the economic gain that ARV patents represent to drug companies.
Theft is bad
What proposition's case really would be is that we should finance the mitigation of AIDS by stealing money and work from the companies who created the anti-retroviral drugs. This is clearly illegitimate. Essentially this is theft from the few to fuel a public will. These few are mainly the shareholders of the pharmaceutical companies, which include old ladies who have put their pensions in the stocks of the company. Through such theft the pharmaceutical companies would not get anything in return for their investments and labor, not even any political capital and goodwill, because that would be gobbled up by the government who goes through with this motion.
Our argument is that if governments and societies believe that AIDS is such a serious issue, then they should support charities, foundations and initiatives (such as Elton John's [[http://www.ejaf.org/]], Elizabeth Taylor's [[http://www.elizabethtayloraidsfoundation.org/]]) or international plans such as PEPFAR [[http://media.www.vanderbiltorbis.com/media/storage/paper983/news/2008/12/10/Newsfeatures/George.Bushs.AidsFighting.Legacy-3578911.shtml]] [[http://www.pepfar.gov/]] (created and promoted by George Bush) to tackle the disease. Funds accumulated through such schemes could be used to purchase the anti-retroviral drugs at market price and distribute them among the infected.
Our argument is that patents on ARV drugs should be removed.
If patents on ARVs are removed, these drugs could be freely manufactured by anyone and this would not constitute theft.
There's no such thing as a one-off exemption
Patents are property rights that ensure companies with a monopoly of the product for a period of time and they act as an incentive to research. But they work only when people and companies trust the government to ensure those property rights. Making a one-off exemption would undermine the government patent credibility. Making a one-off exemption would be detrimental, because companies would not necessarily perceive it as a one-off exemption. They would no longer be sure of government's legal protection of the capital that they invest into research and invention. This would be harmful to all patent industries, because people would then be afraid of investing their money into these industries.
Even if that doesn't happen and people perceive abolishing patents only in extreme cases, it's still bad to do this. This would set a precedent for abolishing pharmaceutical patents for diseases that meet certain conditions like AIDS. These would be diseases that are life-threatening, impact a large number of people and require long-term medication. In these cases the people would expect the government to drop patent protection. Even if this motion solves the problem of AIDS, then what happens when new diseases emerge? Companies would then be unlikely to spend money on developing drugs for these dire conditions. Private companies, however, are the fastest, most efficient way of developing drugs. To explain this we have to look at alternative institutions that might develop drugs. These are government institutions and universities. If pharmaceutical research is constrained to these areas then there are three big issues that arise:
1. Fewer types of drugs will be created.
2. Drugs are created more slowly.
3. There will be less upgrading for existing treatment.
These problems all arise, because for these institutions there is no comparable incentive to private businesses. For pharmaceutical companies it is profitable to develop many different kinds of drugs and upgrade existing treatment, whereas the government will invest only enough to produce a sufficient cure, even if it isn't the best cure. This is especially problematic in the case of anti-retroviral drugs since retroviruses (like HIV) have a high rate of mutation, developing resistance to drugs very quickly, stressing the need for constant development. [[http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12456349]] Also there is no race to drive these institutions, where as pharmaceutical companies because of the competition that exists between them have the incentive to put maximum effort into coming out with a new drug, to be the first to dominate the market.
So disincentivizing companies to work on new life-threatening diseases, takes away our most efficient and fastest way for developing drugs. This impedes our ability to deal with health problems that arise in the future and that is harm to everybody in the world and to future generations, since everybody has the risk of contracting these diseases.
But even if people and companies would perceive this as a one-off exemption for AIDS then it's still harmful. People would then think (and it would probably be the case) that there's little investment in the private sector for AIDS drugs. That hurts everyone who has AIDS, because it damages their future prospects and feeling of security.