Flutterby™! : Columbine on drugs

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Columbine on drugs

2002-11-18 17:52:49+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

Columbine rants on drug patents and strong copyrights, and I just had to respond to:

In other words, yes, they're entitled to their high-priced party for twenty years. After that, though, they need to let go and let it become cheap and widely available. They don't get to have it forever.

As I said as much to Debby, I added, "Of course, if Dan Lyke or a couple of other people I can think of were in this room right now, they'd say that is in direct conflict with my position on strong copyright."

Actually, I think you'll mostly find me in strong agreement on the copyright position. My only complaint with long copyright is that I believe it should be consciously renewed occasionally, say, every 10 to 25 years. This way we can do an easy search to see if something has lapsed from copyright, or if it hasn't we can contact the creator or heirs of the creator to find out what the current licensing situation is. I want to listen to old radio shows, and to explore old books, and I'm not averse to paying royalties for them, but I want to be able to definitively select when I do and don't have to.

Here's the difference: With patents, there's a good chance that what was patented was simply that that's the current state of technology, that multiple people are doing the same research at the same time. Patents are a bad compromise for protecting ideas and since their collateral damage is so high, keeping other innovators from the fruits of their thinking, patents need to be strongly limited. Copyright, and even trademark, on the other hand, allows for subtle enough variations that it's much easier to trace an expression back to a specific person, and there's plenty of room for other unique expressions.

Even if Disney apparently ripped off Mickey Mouse from the 14th century.

[ related topics: Intellectual Property Health Current Events Copyright/Trademark ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-11-18 18:53:03+00 by: other_todd

As I said in my message thread, Dan, I'm with you on the renewals; it made it easier to see who was feeling possessive and who wasn't.

I'm also in full agreement with you on the patents, but I knew that.

Most of the anti-copyright stuff I've been getting is from my friends in the library sciences, who are apparently having unholy hell with rights negotiations, critical commentaries, analyses, electronic rights, et cetera. But I believe a lot of what they're upset about is due to corporations using a fog of FUD and lawyers to try to clamp down on Fair Use ... which I do NOT approve of. A strong copyright calls for a strong Fair Use to match, and we HAVE both of these, but one of them is constantly under attack and needs defending.

There IS a problem, as one librarian-correspondent pointed out, with books not in print but still in copyright - the number of books caught in this limbo, essentially unavailable to anyone, grows every year. On the other hand I'm not sure how much of this couldn't be corrected with civility and good discourse. For example, if I have a book that's not in print, not likely to make me a hell of a lot more money, but still in my copyright and someone says, "Hey, we'd really like to make this available in this way" ... my answer is probably going to be YES. But I want to have the right to answer the question.

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 00:33:24+00 by: John Anderson

if I have a book that's not in print, not likely to make me a hell of a lot more money, but still in my copyright and someone says, "Hey, we'd really like to make this available in this way" ... my answer is probably going to be YES. But I want to have the right to answer the question.

And who will be in charge of saying 'yea' (or 'nay') during the 90 years (and growing) after your death that the copyright will be in effect?

(ObLink: eldred.cc)

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 01:36:54+00 by: topspin [edit history]

The copyright issue Columbine was discussing revolves around drugs. Drug manufacturers are master patent abusers. For example, they give the public drugs like Clarinex and Nexium as their patents for Claritin and Prilosec near expiration. [Note: the Nexium website suggests there's no statistical difference between the same dose of Prilosec and Nexium. The comparisons submitted for approval were at DOUBLE the usual Prilosec dose.]

This new trick for a drug company is simple. Release the "mixed" (racemic) drug first and reap the patent rewards, then as the patent nears expiration, release the "improved" (single enantiomer) and reap another patent reward.

The old trick (see: Cardizem CD, Procardia XL, ad infinitum) was to release a "timed release" version of the old drug when their patent on the original was about to expire. Same deal: new patent, new rewards.... but no new research needed.

I fully support patents for innovations. I cannot support patents which are technical "smoke and mirrors" to extend the gravy train profits of drug companies.

It's patent abuse. It's laughably obvious and very, very common. Last week, we were finally shipped a generic for Augmentin, a moderately popular antibiotic. Amazingly, Augmentin XR was just approved. It's a timed release version of Augmentin with a new patent and a strong marketing program for the MDs. Imagine that.

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 02:35:42+00 by: meuon

Topspin, I saw real changes from Glucophage to Glucophage XR (Extended Release), it sure helped keep my glucose levels steady (I am a Type II Diabetic). Making drugs 'extended release' is not rocket science. Did they delay the XR version release, and the patient benefits, just to maximize patent lifespan? I did notice the XR version availability seemed to hit when the generic (non-XR) version was released.

I wish patient lifespan was more important than patent lifespan.

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 04:21:51+00 by: topspin [edit history]

meuon, what they did was everything they could to delay the release of the generic, while releasing XR and heavily marketing it to MDs and consumers.

Yes, the "extended release" Glucophage likely makes a positive difference in your diabetes control. What irks me is that Bristol Myers-Squibb probably knew this 10 years ago, but chose to value profit over patient care.

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 17:19:08+00 by: other_todd

Mr. Anderson, it's a good point. Actually I have a strong basis ONLY for wanting copyright to at least be for the author's lifetime (before 1978 reform it wasn't, not necessarily - it was for two flat 28-year periods - I wouldn't want to go back to that.) Beyond lifetime, frankly, I don't care much.

Copyright greater than lifetime has advantages and disadvantages. Most of the advantages are for the author's estate, and most of the disadvantages are for everyone else, so as someone who is both an author and Everyone Else, I'm torn.

Topspin, the drug argument and the fiction argument in my original rant were mostly separate. Drugs aren't copyrighted, they're patented, and as Dan and I have both noted in various places and ways, patents are a mess and are used for a lot of dubious purposes. This is one of several reasons I can favor drugs coming out of patent relatively quickly (another is because patient lifespan IS more important than patent lifespan - good phrase, Meuon) ... while also wanting copyrights to last the author's lifetime.

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 17:57:26+00 by: Dan Lyke

As much as I'm normally not a fan of patents, isn't the drug problem really one of easily duped consumers and the fact that the medical profession is more based on lore and entertainment than any real science? The current controversy around diets just underscores that most of what physicians tell us is a mix of experience and hunches, with very little real science underlying the process.

If medicine were practiced a little less as a mix between black magic and mass media, perhaps we'd have less people asking for the latest overpriced placebos because they're just about as effective as the last scam that was pulled over on them.

Or maybe I've had too much experience with psychiatry in the past few years.

Drug-wise, it seems like the smart thing for other drug companies to do is start work on the time release version of a patented drug, patent that, then wait to ride the coat-tails of the original developer when the original patent runs out.

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 18:36:42+00 by: topspin

Dan, company #2 patenting a timed-release version of company #1's drug is like someone else patenting the Mac version of Renderman. The drug is their creation and patenting different delivery methods of the same drug can only be done by those who own the patent to the original drug.

As for medical "smoke and mirrors" issues, the medical community is part of the community at large, no better... no worse. Doctors are not somehow "chosen" or "blessed" or something. They're humans and they fall prey to those lovely sins of greed, vanity, influence, and whatnot..... as do programmers and engineers.

Would you argue the dot.com/software industry of the past several years is different than the medical community when it comes to "easily duped" or "lore and entertainment" issues?

#Comment made: 2002-11-19 18:46:54+00 by: Dan Lyke

Topspin, perhaps there are licensing issues with using the original drug in the lab to develop the time release version, or with testing the drug, but once the original patent lapses all bets are off, so it seems like smart lawyers should be able to figure out a way to build on the existing product, patent the new portions, and then enjoy the time between the original patent expiration and the new innovations. But patents for medicine are not patents in general, and patents in general don't make much sense.

And yep, I'd say that the medical profession is about on par with the dot com/software industry of 1996 through 1999. For every good idea, there are a thousand doctors dispensing snake oil, plotting trend lines with a single sample, pushing diets that came to them in dreams, and so forth. I wouldn't complain if we could get both groups back to as honest and knowledgeable as, say, cell phone or consumer electronics salespeople.

Not saying there aren't some really good people doing really great things, just that what we really need to do is educate consumers to double-check everything that comes from their doctors. I guess this gets back to what we really need to do is teach the populace to think, and... well...

#Comment made: 2002-11-20 03:32:46+00 by: other_todd

I think that, for a start, there should be a ban on doctors accepting heaven knows how many millions in promotional junkets and freebies every year. They say it doesn't influence them but it does (and a few maverick doctors agree and abjure the practice, but not many). Doctors are supposed to be smart people, right? (Well, ideally.) If this works and we can teach the doctors to think, then we can talk about teaching the populace. That sound you hear over here is me not holding my breath.

#Comment made: 2002-11-20 05:28:51+00 by: John Anderson

Nothing much to add in to the discussion, other than vigourous agreement on the drug patent thing... But, other_todd, it's "John", or "genehack", not "Mr. Anderson". If you feel you must use a title, it's actually "Dr. Anderson" according to the degree on the wall... 8^)=

(Apologies if it was a Matrix reference; I don't much notice them anymore.)

#Comment made: 2002-11-20 19:15:20+00 by: other_todd

Well, I'm a southern boy at heart and I don't generally call people by their first names until I get to know them pretty well. If I'd realized you were genehack, I'd have used that - didn't make the connection. I understand, though, I get nervous when people call me Mr. Belton, it usually means they're about to serve me a warrant or they're trying to sell me something.

#Comment made: 2002-11-22 02:35:53+00 by: John Anderson

I get nervous when people call me Mr. Belton, it usually means they're about to serve me a warrant or they're trying to sell me something.

My initial reaction is to look around for my Dad, because the person clearly isn't speaking to me. 8^)=