Patents Over Patients
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of New York Times
Posted: May 31st, 2011
We could make faster progress against cancer by changing the way drugs are developed. In the current system, if a promising compound cant be patented, it is highly unlikely ever to make it to market no matter how well it performs in the laboratory. The development of new cancer drugs is crippled as a result. The reason for this problem is that bringing a new drug to market is extremely expensive. In 2001, the estimated cost was $802 million; today it is approximately $1 billion. To ensure a healthy return on such staggering investments, drug companies seek to formulate new drugs in a way that guarantees watertight patents. In the meantime, cancer patients miss out on treatments that may be highly effective and less expensive to boot. In 2004, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that an off-the-shelf compound called 3-bromopyruvate could arrest the growth of liver cancer in rats. The results were dramatic; moreover, the investigators estimated that the cost to treat patients would be around 70 cents per day. Yet, three years later, no major drug company has shown interest in developing this drug. The hormone melatonin, sold as an inexpensive food supplement in the United States, has repeatedly been shown to slow the growth of various cancers when used in conjunction with conventional treatments. Early this year, another readily available industrial chemical, dichloroacetate, was found by researchers at the University of Alberta to shrink tumors in laboratory animals by up to 75 percent. However ... dichloroacetate is not patentable, and the lead researcher is concerned that it may be difficult to find funding from private investors to test the chemical. Potential anticancer drugs should be judged on their scientific merit, not on their patentability.
Note: To explore several cancer cures which have shown dramatic potential, yet are not being studied for lack of funds due to inability to patent the process, click here. Why are these very promising treatments not being fast-tracked as the expensive AIDS drugs were? For a top MD's revealing comments on this, click here. And for why the media won't feature these promising cancer treatments in headlines, click here.