When patents kill: Genzyme's patent-protected, life-saving drug
Should intellectual property protect the rights of a pharmaceutical company who can't produce enough of a key medication?
As noted by Mike Masnick on Techdirt (post reprinted below), due to the monopoly granted by patent (yes, it is a monopoly), people are literally dying because Fabrazyme is in short supply and the sole, monopolistic manufacturer, Genzyme, can’t make enough quickly enough–and no one else is permitted to make it due to the patent. I’m sure the intellectual propergandists will callously, arrogantly, and smugly retort that without patents, Genzyme would never have invented the drug in the first place, and instead of, oh, 5,000 people dying, 20,000 would die. So saving 15,000 (I’m guessing at the numbers) is better than none, right? So the ones who die have no complaint about the patent system, since without it they’d die anyway. What a chilling mentality; and of course there is no reason to think drugs would not be invented absent patents.Skip to next paragraph
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If the concern here is that pharmaceutical companies need the be able to charge monopoly prices to be able to increase revenues enough to provide enough return on investment to make the original research worthwhile, wouldn’t a simpler and more direct solution be to remove the costs already imposed on them by the state–taxes, regulations, FDA process–instead of trusting that same destructive state to “help” them? The history of innovation and patenting is rife with example after example of near-simultaneous invention occurring, but the first to file (or invent, depending on the jurisdiction) gets the monopoly. Absent patents, they would all be able to take products to market. They all benefit already from the accumulated body of human knowledge that they had no role in producing. They build on the insights and discoveries of others from the past; and in the future, people will build on their discoveries being made now. What is wrong with this? Emulation and learning are good things. The market thrives on competition; competition is not possible without the freedom to emulate. When current innovation incrementally builds on knowledge from the past, when future innovation will build on knowledge from the present–it is bizarre and obscene to impose artificial limits on contemporaneous learning and sharing and emulating and competing.
Absent patents, there would be even more innovation. As Robert Weissman from Public Citizen, quoted by Masnick, notes: “ Of course there are no competing suppliers — why would any firm try to enter a market it believed closed by a patent monopoly?” Companies avoid engaging in R&D in patented markets. Of course, this is one reason patents distort the market and R&D, as explained by Rothbard and others. (See Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State and Power and Market: