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The Moral and Logical Vacuity of the Anti-Patent Crowd

It’s been a while, because these people grate on me, but I have to comment on the latest bit of madness that has come through my in-box from the empty-headed crusaders against pharmaceutical patents.

Today’s example is Priti Radhakrishnan, who runs an organization called I-MAK, which apparently stands for “the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge.” Well, aren’t those all three very nice things? I’m sure we can all get behind Priti.

So, in her latest article at, “Pharma’s secret weapon to keep drug prices high,” Priti rails against pharmaceutical patents, especially what she calls “secondary patents.” [just as an aside, there is no such thing as a secondary patent. There is no distinction in patent law between “primary” and “secondary” patents. This is a disparaging term that is used by the anti-patent crowd.]

Now, any clown can come up with an example of a bad patent. Priti has the nerve, however, to use Solvadi as her example, which is where we are going with all of this.

What is Sovadi? Sovaldi is a CURE for Hepatitis-C.  It’s a revolutionary medicine. First you had Hep-C, and you suffered and you died early. Now, with Sovaldi, you can be cured of Hep-C.

I emphasize this because, before Sovaldi, the critics of the pharmaceutical industry were bashing the industry because it allegedly was focusing on lifestyle drugs for the rich West rather than trying to cure the diseases that plagued millions of people. Greed rather than trying to actually cure diseases. Then Sovaldi comes along and inconveniences their argument.

But you’ve got to hand it to Priti. She has nerve—almost certainly more nerve than you or I have.  Because Priti can write something like this:

“We have evaluated Gilead’s patent portfolio and found that, based on US and international patent law, Gilead does not deserve any of its 27 patents for Sovaldi. Both the base and secondary patents for the drug are based on old science and commonly known techniques.”

Really? So there’s no cure for Hep-C. Someone invests millions of dollars and years of expertise and actually manages to invent a cure for Hep-C, but they’re not entitled to a single patent for such a revolutionary invention?

Who knew? "Old science and commonly known techniques!" We could have cured Hep C a long time ago with old science and commonly known techniques! We just didn't bother! All that time the cure for Hep C was laying around, being used as a door stop. We just never got around to it.

I guess if Priti and her organization used their evaluation methodology on my front yard, they wouldn't manage to find a single blade of grass.

In Priti's case, it appears that her hatred of the pharmaceutical industry has clouded her ability to even see things in logical sequence. I hope I'm not crossing through the same intersection with Priti anytime soon.

Later, Priti manages to come up with the standard disclaimer that the anti-IP crowd always manages to throw down so they don’t seem quite so unreasonable:

“We support patents”


“Our patent system should reward only true inventions in science and medicine.”

Wait—curing Hep C with a pill isn’t a “true invention in science or medicine”?

These people.

But seriously, it's important to understand a couple of things here. First, you can become so twisted in your political agenda that you can make outright foolish and false statements, and you don't even know you've done it.

And second, believe it or not, people like Priti and with her views are taken seriously in the global health policy community. That's the really scary thing.

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