Sunday, February 25, 2007

Patents: A Helpful Analysis

The current issue of the Hastings Center Report contains a 36-page supplement, "Patents, Biomedical Research, and Treatments: Examining Concerns, Canvassing Solutions," by Josephine Johnston and Angela A. Wasunna. The report provides an extensive review of the current status of patents and licenses in pharmaceutical marketing, with special focus on problems in the developing world, with an especially complete catalogue of possible reform measures.

The report nicely supplements the discussion of patents in HOOKED, and confirms the position that patents are tools of public policy, not basic rights (as the oft-used phrase, "intellectual property rights," is intended to convey). If patents produce consequences that run contrary to good public policy, as often occurs in pharmaceuticals, then we need additional measures of some sort to mitigate those bad consequences. High on the list are questions of whether people in developing countries will be able to afford medications needed for life and health; and whether in the future, pharmaceutical firms will discover desperately needed new medicines for afflictions prevalent in poorer nations.

Johnston J, Wasunna AA. Patents, biomedical research, and treatments: examining concerns, canvassing solutions. Hastings Center Report 37(1):S1-S36, 2007;

No comments: