Markets in everything

by on February 7, 2007 at 12:17 pm in Medicine | Permalink

Or should this post be titled "Department of Uh-Oh"?

Indonesia, which has had more human cases of avian flu than any other country, has stopped sending samples of the virus to the World Health Organization, apparently because it is negotiating a contract to sell the samples to an American vaccine company, a W.H.O. official said yesterday.  The strains of the H5N1 virus circulating in Indonesia are considered crucial to developing up-to-date vaccines and following mutations in the virus.

Here is the story.  At the very least, is it not better to release the information but require a payment of royalties from any company using it profitably?  Or since the virus has a 60-70 percent fatality rate in Indonesia, maybe they might go back to simply giving the information away…?

Here is further commentary, perhaps the Indonesians are resentful that they would not be able to afford any resulting vaccine.  If this entire episode does not convince you that IP law is out of control, I don’t know what would.

John Mansfield February 7, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Does the owner of IP rights to a pathogen have any liability when it infects someone?

Would spreading a contagious disease be a kind of IP piracy?

Christopher Prottas February 7, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Could you please elaborate on the problem with IP law that prompted: ‘If this entire episode does not convince you that IP law is out of control, I don’t know what would.’ Thanks.

Viscus February 8, 2007 at 1:47 am

IP law is indeed out of control. We should consider a system that encourages cooperation in advancing discovery, rather then a winner-take-all mentality.

DK February 8, 2007 at 2:21 pm

The IP law Tyler means, I presume, is the US patent law, which gives the American company the incentive to buy exclusive virus rights from Indonesia.

IMHO, the company is wrong. If/when a pandemic reaches the US, it would take about an hour for Congress to break every patent related to bird flu. Effect measure is right that public funding for vaccines is necessary, but not because of the need to share but because the promise of monopoly profits in a real crisis is simply not credible.

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