Saturday, June 04, 2011

Read Geist

A number of years ago I picked up a sticker that I placed on a clipboard, it said simply:

That was the 20th Century, now I believe the saying of the 21st should be to "Read Geist". To read him makes one to understand what is happening in the world of copyright and how Big Media and Big Copyright Holders want to put their own interests way ahead of your interests. To them your only part of the entire thing is to give them more and more money as long as you live.

In the Toronto Star, he wrote an article regarding a new deal Big Pharma wants to enforce in Canada. It is to extend the life of the copyright of drugs. In the day when new medication is being produced which, for the most part, is bringing about enhancement in daily life, Big Pharma wants to ensure its hold on the copyright of the drug is extended.

He described the position of Big Pharma, most of them which are based in Europe and have managed to wrap the EU around their various pudgey fingers:
The intellectual property council (which counts several brand name pharmaceutical companies as members) claims the reforms would lead to increased pharmaceutical research and development in Canada. But last week University of Toronto law professor Edward Iacobucci released a study that thoroughly debunks the CIPC claims, predicting increased consumer costs and noting that there is little evidence the changes would increase employment or research spending.

Of course, they say that such protection will enhance the industry in Canada and make it wonderful place. I am surprised there was no mention about piracy in that situation, knock off drugs. Of course that is what the Canadian Intellectual Property Council would want us to believe.

What Michael Geist is concerned about is the extension of the protection ensures the costs of such medication remains high and stays high. As I thought about what he was writing about, I thought the true danger of excessively long copyright is that it becomes a monopoly. As I thought about drugs, I am reminded of the fact that generic provides both a low cost alternative and choice for the consumer. Have a headache, you are not stuck with one brand name, but a number. With medication becoming more important, I was talking to one person who was complaining they are now a pill popper, it is important to have low costs and choice. If the numbers are to be believed, it is costing the consumer and the health care system 22 Billion a year. He mentions a document written by Dr. Edward M. Iacobucci, "INNOVATION FOR A BETTER TOMORROW: A CRITIQUE". He mentions:
When generics enter, public and private plans obtain competitive drug benefit prices for reimbursement of a particular drug; competition brings pricing benefits that monopoly does not. This is especially the case after recent provincial reform of generic pricing, causing generic prices around the country to fall from 50-75 percent of the brand price to 25-45 percent of the brand price, depending on provincial market characteristics and trade restrictions (see table below). Lower, competitive prices for drugs tend to reduce the cost of private insurance plans, and bring potential social benefits by allowing public plans to reallocate resources to other aspects of the provincial health care systems, including other pharmaceutical products which are not currently reimbursed by provincial or private health care plans.

With health costs only guaranteed to increase, the issue now comes, is there places to save money that do not included restricting or rationing services for people. There is and that is make generic medication available. If it is true the cost can decrease by as much as 45% that is a sizable saving. It is easy to understand why Big Pharma wants to restrict the right of generic drugs to expand, it cuts into their profit. I know there would be those who would say that this companies have a right to a return to their investment. Of course they do, there is nothing to stop them from continuing to produce the same drugs even though there is competition, after all some people only feel comfortable with brand names.

However, it is a matter of cost; to us as consumers and to us as taxpayers. I was reading an interesting article regarding Brazil and copyright. Early in this century, Brazil decided to become a strong open source nation, and probably continues to follow that line. The article mentioned that at one point the government became aggressive in treating HIV by making the medication available. It helped but was very expensive so they decided to approach the patent holders to discover if a deal could be made, at first the pharmaceuticals refused. The the President decided to do something:
His first approach was to go to the key patent holders, the US pharmaceutical giant Merck and the Swiss firm Roche, and ask for a volume discount. When the companies said no, Serra raised the stakes. Under Brazilian law, he informed them, he had the power in cases of national emergency to license local labs to produce patented drugs, royalty free, and he would use it if necessary. Merck immediately caved, but Roche stood its ground until August 2001, when Serra prepared to make good on his threat by drawing up the required paperwork. It was the first time a poor country had even come close to breaking a drug patent - and Roche, stunned, returned to the bargaining table with a newly cooperative attitude. In return for Serra's agreement to play nice, the drugmaker would reduce the price of its drug in Brazil to less than half what it was (and less than Brazil's cost to go it alone).

The question is why does it have to become this? Simple because copyright means royalties and excessive royalties mean huge profits. If you can guarantee no competition then you can decide the costs and make them pay.

Michael Geist wants us to know about this, and this is why you need to read Geist.

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