US wrecks cheap drugs deal
December 21, 2002 9:24 AM   Subscribe

US wrecks cheap drugs deal Many of us have sorely miss VP Dick Cheney. Here is what he has been up to of late. Gosh, we will sure try to help the sick and the dying. Just not for the forseeable future. See Dick act. See Dick block help. See Dick help lobbies.
posted by Postroad (105 comments total)
 
That's disgusting.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2002


This is disgusting, but it's not enough to just say that. (This is not to imply, Pretty_Generic, that this is all you have done, but nonetheless...) We've become bombarded with disturbing news from the current American administration, from privacy and civil rights concerns to racism and world trade issues. On the global front, it seems apparent that Americans are willing to deal with millions of poor and starving as long as their own quality of life remains astoundingly high. It's either that or a complacency rooted in head-in-the-sand, self-induced ignorance. Either way it's shameful and despicable; the lack of global (and domestic) perspective in this country is a major problem.

So yes, it is disgusting. But it's not even enough to vote for ideologically different parties or candidates. It's important to foster discussion and spread this kind information to your friends and associates. And not just the ones that you know already agree with you politically. I am hoping it's more a problem of ignorance than greed and cruelty, and that creating an informed populace can start to make a difference.

And of course there's always some kind of inherent hypocrisy in anything I post here, sitting in front of my thousand dollar computer in a comfortable apartment in Manhattan. But at least it weighs on my conscience.
posted by pinto at 9:46 AM on December 21, 2002


I dunno.

It seems to me that if we, the collective rich first world, want the poor nations to have cheap drugs then we, the whole collective rich first world, should tax ourselves and pay for in one way or another. Shunting the entire cost onto pharm firms and their stockholders as foregone profit seems unkosher to me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:53 AM on December 21, 2002


I do not see any hypocrisy in living your life as comfortably as you are able to. The drug companies are not in the business of charity either. But if you (or a CEO of a drug company) should see an opportunity to do some good in the world (rather than just talking/lobbying about it) and fail to take it because you see it as someone else's job, then let that weigh on your conscience.
posted by wobh at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2002


ROU_Xenophobe: The point is that, either way (and preferably both ways), it has to be done. I can't imagine being either in government or in a pharmaceutical firm and ignoring my ability to easily save millions of innocent lives.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:59 AM on December 21, 2002


Shame, shame, shame.
posted by CrazyJub at 10:07 AM on December 21, 2002


The industry argues that it spends billions a year on drug research and that if copycat companies can override their patents and manufacture drugs at bargain prices, research will dry up.

Well, that's something all the dying people across the world will understand. I mean, they'd feel just terrible if these companies were hindered from doing research into even more beneficial and life-saving drugs that they won't ever be allowed to have.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:08 AM on December 21, 2002


And of course......What would Jesus do™?
posted by CrazyJub at 10:09 AM on December 21, 2002


By hypocisy I mean that I have chosen to engage in the system which I'm criticizing. I work (though, thankfully, not for a large corporation), contribute to the economy, and -- though I try to avoid its excesses as much as I can -- am a consumerist who feeds the mill like all the rest of us. Opinions aside, my actions still support the system which I view as seriously flawed and unjust.

This said, I'd like to think that if I ever got beyond living paycheck to paycheck and began to accumulate what could be known as wealth, I would do my best to give most of it to those in need, as opposed to buying a bigger home, a bigger car, etc.
posted by pinto at 10:13 AM on December 21, 2002


Waitasec. Wasn't it just a short while ago that these same poor countries were protesting because we had sold them high-quality but inexpensive seed grain that they couldn't re-seed with, and they were basically demanding that we give them expensive, subsidized seed at maybe 1/4 of the discount price because they couldn't cheat us by re-seeding with the same grain?

While, I might add, that if they used generic seed, they could re-seed as much as they wanted, BUT THEY WOULDN'T MAKE AS MUCH MONEY because of smaller yields. Sounds like raw greed to me.

Well, gosh-darn-it, Monsanto should give expensive grain to them for free because of the sweetness of their smile!

So now we offer them limited support to combat highly contagious diseases that could hurt us, so they think that gives them the right to make cheap (expensive) drugs for their other diseases and cheat our companies again?

But wait, the only people in those countries who could get the cheap, high-quality drugs would be the wealthy anyway. Their poor people never even see a doctor when they are sick. So we are supposed to subsidize the wealthy people in poor countries?

I'm missing the point here.
posted by kablam at 10:14 AM on December 21, 2002


Let's keep score...

Marital infidelity vs

..helping Enron defraud millions and put thousands of people out of work, restricting life saving drugs to poor nations, election fraud, destroying the environment, destroying foreign relations, appointing racist party leaders, creating a police state at home, pushing the world to the brink of war, hiding potentially incriminating documents from the public and prosecutors, bumbling the 9/11 investigation......sigh.

Now, does Clinton seem that bad in hidnsight? And of course.......are you better off now than you were four years ago?
posted by CrazyJub at 10:15 AM on December 21, 2002


I'm with ROU. That's basically penalizing pharm companies b/c they've produced good drugs. I don't believe in slavery, so I don't believe in forcing pharm companies to give their drugs away. Yes, people _need_ medicine and they _need_ to live. No, I don't believe you should _force_ people, at the butt of a gun, to pay for other people's health. If I'm pfizer, I'm essentially told - you've got this lifesaving drug that you're making tons of money off of, and therefore we demand you give it away. I'm going to look at you and say "what are you, friggin' nuts?" and you're going to point the government at me (which is like pointing many many guns) and say "PEOPLE NEED IT YOU MUST GIVE IT" and I'm going to say "FINE." And then I'm going to stop innovating and making new drugs, unless you start paying me to do that, because it's financially idiotic to do so.

Know the history of the famine in Etheopia? It's got very little to do with not having enough food. What makes anyone think that medicine dispersal would be any better done than food? Man made famine is everywhere. What in the hell makes people think that man made drug famines (of the "you've got all the drugs you need in a warehouse owned by some tinpot dictator (c.f. Saddam, who sells the food/drugs he gets from the UN for hard currency, and buys weapons with them)" variety) are less likely?

Pretty_Generic - "Ignoring my ability to easily save millions of innocent lives" would be horrible, if it were true. Sadly, there's this thing called "money" and "money" comes from somewhere. The lynchpin of your strawman is the word "easily." Sure, it would be easy to do today. But then the pharm companies would go out of business soon after, and then where would we be? And they'd never innovate, because R&D costs a boatload. And god forbid pharm companies make a profit! They should work hard to save those millions of innocent lives that you posit, and then be left destitute for their efforts. Sounds like a great idea! Oh, no, wait, that's my sarcasm again.

Funny, the way the WTO agreement looks to me is that the rest of the world said "CHEAP DRUGS FOR EVERYBODY" and the US, which has most of the worlds great drugmakers said "WAIT A GODDAMNED MINUTE HERE, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO STEAL FROM ME." Did I miss something? Like, the great pharmaceutical labs of Russia, doing that pioneering work in what, exactly?

And more to the point, the WTO agreement offers cheap drugs to Latin America, Asia and Africa. Let me understand this, then - because I'm an American, I have to either leave the country to get cheap drugs (c.f. tijuana?) or pay full boat and get screwed? How is that, you know, good?
posted by swerdloff at 10:17 AM on December 21, 2002


And as for the Monsanto deal...the reason they don't want it is that they would not be able to share the GM grain amongst themselves without PAYING Monsanto license fees for eternity.

Read this for what they are afraid of... http://www.texasobserver.org/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=477
posted by CrazyJub at 10:18 AM on December 21, 2002


GOD BLE$$ US!!!
posted by Satapher at 10:36 AM on December 21, 2002


“That's basically penalizing pharm companies b/c they've produced good drugs.”

I would believe this if the pharmaceutical industry didn’t receive hundreds of millions in corporate welfare every year. Essentially, the US taxpayer subsidizes pharmacuetical research and marketing. It should be up to the US taxpayer what to do with the benefits of their investment.

That is, until the pharma companies suddenly figure out how to make money without being on the dole.
posted by raaka at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2002


I can understand the points of view of the phrama companies as well as the countries requesting ease of patents. It's definitely a rock and a hard place sort of thing, with no easy answers. What is better, basically copying innovation from a company to save people, or maintaining a high level of research and quality medication in exchange for the continued deaths of people that can't afford it?

This is to be expected with human health is commoditized. At some point lines have to be drawn and basic economics have to be used to determine who has enough worth to deserve health and who does not. I'd much rather prefer that human health was an industry beyond economics and that it was a freely available good for all, but that's not the case.

This situation isn't as cut and dry or black and white as the Guardian makes it out to be, and we're a bit fucked (either letting people die or stifling innovation and research) regardless of which side we choose in this case.
posted by mathowie at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2002


I think I should be allowed to share music. I would never buy the artists' albums anyway, and besides, more people getting their hands on a musician's work only increases their popularity. Oh, wait. We're not talking about music, this is just some stupid saving millions of lives shit. Fuck those greedy third-world theives.

That said, there's a difference here. I don't even think it's theft. We're not asking Phizer here to personally manufacture and distribute their drugs using their resources and materials. We're asking them not to legally forbid an outside company from making a generic version. How can a company say with a straight face that its profit potential rests on PREVENTING people from having their product?

My point in my previous comment is that this "Research" argument is complete bullshit, and is most cases so is the profit argument: neither of these are hindered. The basic fact is what the companies don't want to admit: they see keeping people alive and healthy not as a global human obligation, but as a commodity. Withholding the ability to keep someone alive isn't Capitalism, it's ransom.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2002


Well, that's something all the dying people across the world will understand. I mean, they'd feel just terrible if these companies were hindered from doing research into even more beneficial and life-saving drugs that they won't ever be allowed to have.

Oh my god, XQUZYPHYR, when you put it that way, it's so clear to me. People NEED IT™, and so I must GIVE IT. People will DIE!

Actually, I've heard that your apartment is really nice. I NEED IT. Gimme.

Interesting but completely ignored point - before these drugs existed, these people were going to die from these diseases as was. Net net, they're in exactly the same place they were before these drugs came out. The drugs came from somewhere. Did they come from your butt? No, XQUZYPHYR, they came from the hard work and research and blood sweat and tears of people who create drugs. I'm sure that they'll be extremely happy to hear that because of their hard work, they're not expected to give away the fruit of their labors because people who were going to die from diseases are still going to die from those diseases. Those HEARTLESS BASTARDS! How DARE they create drugs that could help people, and then be selfish enough to expect compensation for the effort? How DARE they expect even so much as a thank you for saving all of the people that you have saved, and get upset when some righteously indignant person points to dying babies and says "well, sure, you saved a bunch of rich people, what what about those dying babies?"

What do you do for a living, XQUZYPHYR, that you so blithely believe in giving away the fruits of other people's labors? Hmm? How do you sleep at night still believing in slavery? Isn't that what it is, when you demand someone work for far less than the value of what they are doing truly is? Well, it's not exactly slavery, since, you know, they could stop making drugs, but then where the heck would you be?
posted by swerdloff at 10:38 AM on December 21, 2002


The basic fact is what the companies don't want to admit: they see keeping people alive and healthy not as a global human obligation, but as a commodity. Withholding the ability to keep someone alive isn't Capitalism, it's ransom.

The basic fact is what the righteously indignant don't want to admit: they see forcing people to give away the fruits of their labors at cut rate or for free as something that must be done "BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT™". Forcing someone to give something away isn't moral, it's theft. Forcing someone to work for the benefit of others isn't moral, it's slavery.
posted by swerdloff at 10:40 AM on December 21, 2002


I'm gonna get all left-wing on yo' ass.

The primary purpose of government is to ensure the long healthy life of those who want it. This must not be prioritised by wealth, but by age, and in today's situation it is the clear duty of richer nations to help save lives in the poorer ones.

In the current system of drugs patenting, the wealthy (both individuals and corporations) decide which drugs are researched into, and this decision is dependent on the sale of the drugs making the corporations wealthier.

I would like a system where governments and the WHO are able to produce any patented drugs without licencing and without making a profit, and sell or give them only to those countries which need them most yet cannot afford them.

Since these poor nations would not be able to buy the drugs in the first place, this cheap sale would not be taking business away from the pharmaceutical companies. As the poorer nations benefited from better health, they would eventually become richer markets for the pharmaceutical companies to sell to, and the non-profit organisations would pull out. R&D for these less profitable but more essential drugs needs to be paid for by taxing the richer nations, and by the drugs companies, who by doing so would create advertising and draw in investors hoping to use their money to benefit the world as well as themselves.

The current system works great for the short-term benefit of the wealthy. But with the plagues in the world today, intellectual property cannot be prioritised over the saving of life.

I'm thinking aloud here.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:59 AM on December 21, 2002


Pinto, that's not hypocrisy, that's called compromise at worst. You live in the world, you live the best you can and try to help out the people you can best help. There's nothing wrong with that.

The way I see it, the question here is a little stranger. By protecting the patent rights of the drug companies is the US Gov't really doing the Right thing? I'm inclined to be more cold-bloodedly utilitarian about it and from my point of view the situation is murky. To me forcing the drug companies to put up with copycats looks like the wrong solution, wrong problem. The low cost copycats aren't necessarily the good guys here either. One could get a lot of political leverage by controlling one of these guys.

Who would be the worse devil, our guys or theirs? Remember, "the money is in treatment, not the cure", but theft isn't charity either. I guess I'm just saying that it's a tougher call than the article makes it sound.
posted by wobh at 11:06 AM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff, Pharma research is funded with tax dollars and therefore did indeed come out of XQUZYPHYR's butt, if he is a taxpayer. By your own definition of slavery, unless we have collectively sanctioned it, what they are doing with our tax dollars (funding the research itself initially) is the only slavery involved in this question.
Waiving patent rights in the third world isn't slavery; it's merely foregoing profits they never would have gotten anyway. The tunnel-visioned isolation you embrace, ignoring the other 139 members of the WTO, can only serve to diminish the US's capacity to positively influence the world, and increase the hatred felt toward us by an ever-larger number of non-Americans.
on preview, what Pretty_G said.
posted by Corky at 11:10 AM on December 21, 2002


This is sort of off topic, and i haven't done much spelling/grammar checking. And granted the whole idea is ridiculously rough, look at it though, and tell me what you think.

Chapter 1 – Civil Disobedience

Farnham Long is arrested for the distribution of marijuana to the sick; his California co-op of growers is shut down leaving a thousand patients without their medication. Howard is greatly affected by the ensuing highly public trial, and his father’s subsequent sentencing of four years. Howard is not capable of understanding how a government for the people, by the people feels the need to jail someone helping the people. His father distraught at the prospect of not having a hand in raising long gives him a copy of Walden, and Thus Spoke Zarathrusta, as well as a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land. Long already an avid reader devours them, and begins to wonder what he can do for the world..

Chapter 2 – College

After a good but not extraordinary high school experience Long applies and is accepted to the University of Berkley. While, his grades were not great he had good sat scores, and left the university interviewer considering his own personal flaws in the face of someone well rounded in a classical sense. They talked about topics from religion to a complete understand of Nietzsche’s thus spoke Zarathrusta and whether or not such a thing was even possible, as implied by the title “a book for all and for none”

Chapter 3 – Coffee House Creation

After a long night of studying micro-biology and calculus Long, Niki Raynd, Valentine Smith, and Laurence Foucault are enjoying coffee at a near by yuppie eatery, amid a discussion of whether or not “fru fru” food was better than home cooked fatty meals or not. The group is disturbed by a television broadcast detailing the United States plan to spend billions on developing radiation friendly tactical nukes. Long, already disgusted with out nations policies, jokes about disenfranchising himself, and claims that the only thing stopping him is that there is no nation with a moral standard worthy of his citizenship. Niki Raynd suggests that he look into Sea Land, and a discussion ensues discussing the Island Nation and its bizarre legal status in a world of economic superpowers, and third world nations that serve as national factories for cheap labor exports. A brief discussion of the islands perceived weakness due to its lack of military ends with Long’s decision to think long and hard about the idea

Chapter 4 – Christmas Holiday

Long’s father is out of jail, they talk about Long’s plan for an island, Farnham criticizes the plan as a rejection of the American political system, and the advances of our nation. Long takes stance that our government has lost its ability to change, like a hydra with so many heads that the body can never move in one direction constantly, but instead fights for many things in an unorganized matter, points (oil economy vs. Renewable energy, Privacy vs. Information, Freedom of speech vs. Censorship of the internet) Long’s father concedes, but still feels that something should be done from inside the U.S. as well.

Chapter 5 – Last year of education at Berkley

Internship at Microsoft for long working as international business relations consultant, long starts to meet people with money, lots of money. Finish’s up school and pledges to group of friends now 20+ that they will all work towards this common goal. Groups’ majors include economics, patent law, philosophy, languages, physics, chemistry, business, psychology, and ecology. Group of friends starts to compile a list of THE key players in their respective fields.

Chapter 6 – five years after graduation

Donor is secured by Long to give 10 million towards project, Long pledges a million of his own assets, as do 10 other people who have been included in the project. Project size now at 50+, emailing list used to keep all people informed of not just new additions, but weddings, and other social events. Group has become an interconnected global family of friends.



Chapter 7 – Purchase of Navassa Island

Island is secured from the U.S. as a research facility for the sum of 10 million. Buildings are erected by contracting firm with ties to the Long foundation. Which the group has assumed as its name despite much protest from long. Planning for the island foundation has been years in the making, and construction is very eco friendly. Buildings are submerged for added insulation, solar power is used extensively. High speed data connections are established. (possible sea hydroelectric plants discussed using gulf stream for power – check map of gulf stream with relation to Navassa Island)

Chapter 8 – Finding the right people

Long foundation is at 100 + members with a total amassed wealth of over 300 million, including the island assets. The process of contacting scientists whose names have been amassed by foundation members is begun. Certain scientists have a higher priority. Including the leaders of quantum research at mit and IBM, as well as key players in nanotechnology, a proportion of about 25% of all scientists contacted except offer.

Chapter 9 – Setting up camp

The arrival of 250 people on Navassa Island is the real start of the island research facility. Scientists who were skeptical but signed up all the same become enthusiastic for the idea. A key player in microbiology reveals to Long in a private meeting that he thinks he knows how to contain radiation in cells. First key technology is developed soon there after.


Chapter 10 – Public Outcry

The relative peace of the island is disturbed a year later by a report from the Washington Post detailing the islands involvement in technology. In particular the arrangement of highly influential people who seem to be involved with the island. Chaos ensues resulting in a picture of Howard Long as a megalomaniac out to take over the world. The U.S. government, responding to national pressure, attempts to reign in the island by dispatching the cost guard, and demanding that property taxes as well as income taxes be paid by the inhabitants.

Chapter 11 – Court appearance

Howard Long along with a team of highly selective lawyers fights the U.S. right to tax the island nation, which clearly lies outside of U.S. national waters. The lawyers point to the fact that pains were taken to appease the government early on, through the purchasing of the island. Lawyers argue that this route was taken in spite of a shaky U.S. legal claim on the island. The case of Sea Land vs. Britain is cited, and The Republic of Navassa gains international recognition as a sovereign body.



Chapter 12 – Greasing hands

Timed to follow the courts landmark decision The Republic of Navassa distributes freely, micro fauna designed to clean up pollution to third world nations, as well as designer antibiotics and antiviral medication. This action was accompanied by much gobs of publicity from island friendly media centers around the globe. Within a month of the court case Navassa is recognized as a sort of international Red Cross. A country operating like Switzerland, but dedicated to the advancement of the globe.

Chapter 13 –A baby is born

The first child of Navassa Island is born to a scientist and a researcher; the parents elect to stay on the island, changing the island from a research institution into a possible haven for families. Long outlines his plan for dealing with raising children, which includes courses in global politics, foreign languages, and extended stays abroad at various key ages, throughout the childhood development. The event is also used to publicize a new phase in national planning for navassa. The desire to turn the island into a top rate university.

Chapter 14 – the present

The island of navassa has swelled to over 2000 people, with many more counting themselves citizens in absentia from around the globe. Its university is recognized as one of the finest research institutions in the world, and professors and students alike are competitively seeking placement. Its political influence is unheard of for a nation with no real military technology, its policies are upheld as examples of humanitarianism at its highest, and funding for the Navassa space exploration team is entering final phases. Things are only looking up for the island, as a world turned sour on the expansionist policies of the US, looks to Navassa for free aid with technology and ecological disasters without the accompanying U.S. dogma. Navassa, however, not wanting to anger the political forces of the U.S. and other countries takes pains to establish national offices in D.C. and other major metropolitan areas, offering free health services, advice for intellectuals seeking patents, free databases of the compendium of human knowledge (maintained by librarians of Navassa,) and unprecedented support for the arts. These diplomatic offices serve as a link between the island and reality, and give Navassians a home away from the island. Their public involvement in providing services for free makes a physical or verbal attack on navassa similar to political suicide. Indeed many citizens in poor urban areas relate more freely to their local Navassa aid office than they do with similar institutions provided at cost through taxes by their own governments. Navassa is admitted with much fan fare into the U.N. and a liberal political block is formed between Navassa and the European Union making the United States continued policies of ecological pillaging and violence seem small and child like in the face of higher altruism. Early rejection by the nations of the middle east of navassa diplomats as yet one more way to westernize the east subside in the realization that Navassa only wants to help, not muddle in their affairs. After free land mine detecting systems are given to several Arab nations Egypt agrees to let Navassa establish a diplomatic office in good faith. Office has flourished for the last five years with new offices opened in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Western culture has come full circle in the middle east at last.
posted by sourbrew at 11:11 AM on December 21, 2002


Let me understand this, then - because I'm an American, I have to either leave the country to get cheap drugs (c.f. tijuana?) or pay full boat and get screwed? How is that, you know, good?

Well, I think it's fucking brilliant, but that's because I get the benefit of the NHS's bulk-buying power when negotiating the cost of pharmaceuticals. Perhaps you ought to elect people who'll introduce something similar, rather than the current US practice of subsidising Big Pharma with taxpayers' money, for Big Pharma then to screw over its American customers?

Forcing someone to give something away isn't moral, it's theft. Forcing someone to work for the benefit of others isn't moral, it's slavery.

Wow. I can hear you stamping your little foot in absolutist rage, even though you're an ocean away.

Here's my issue with this: if Merck and Pfizer flood the developing world with drugs to stop people from dying, within decades, these people would most likely be spending their own money on these companies' fourteenth-generation 'stop mild embarrassment' pills. So you can stick the moral absolutes down the toilet: all I'm seeing here is shortsighted business practices.

Surely the basic economics of drug dealing apply here: you give them the first one for free, and they keep coming back? The only reason for the reticence here appears to be the quarterly-by-quarterly mentality of corporations who are in hock to Wall Street.

It does, however, make me wonder just how many Africans could be saved by diverting the cost of Dick Cheney's medical treatment.
posted by riviera at 11:12 AM on December 21, 2002


Hi, I'm one of several million potential petty dictators and dictators-in-waiting in the world. I do not care if you live or die, I only care about me. I openly hate the minorities in my country, and the people who live outside of my country, and I stay awake at nights thinking of ways to persecute and hurt them--just because.
I see the US as a decadent pile of money. I will use whatever deceit, cunning, or treachery I can (I, too, have read and admired Machiavelli), to get whatever I can for free from the stupid Americans. And make no mistake about it, whatever I get is *mine*, for I am the Big Boss.
You see, that is the bottom line. For in my country, and many, many other countries, the government is no different than a Mafia. All who are in the government work solely for the Big Boss, and all the top jobs are held by his relatives. And even the idiot cousin, who is feeble minded, will fit right in as the UN ambassador, where the average education is 5th grade.

So I will call you racists and I will demand that you forgive any and all debts, though that money went into my bank account, or I will call you filthy capitalists. And I will persecute my hated minorities and democratic opposition because that is what the great corporations are paying me to do, though I would do it anyway--because.

And you will give me much of what I want, because you are idiots who live in a white tower, and you know nothing of history or realpolitik.
posted by kablam at 11:19 AM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff, you got a little foam thingie going on.. right there... sides of your mouth... there you go.

It's ridiculous that you're comparing medicine to real estate, let alone slavery. It's even more ridiculous that you're implying any of these companies, whose "blood, sweat, and tears" are comprised significantly of your and my tax dollars, are suddenly going to go bankrupt because people who never would have been able to afford their drugs in the first place are now able to have them.

I don't even know how to address your argument, because all you're doing is throwing a tantrum with some slavery comparison. It's as if you really believe Third-World soldiers are standing over U.S. pharmaceutical researchers like some Communist weapons lab, ready to grab the new plans for the Super Weapon as soon as the imprisoned scientist finishes it. The third world is NOT trying to steal the labors of drug companies, nor are they trying to steal technology for some kind of competition: they're trying to use technology the world knows now exists to further humanity.

Calm the fuck down, and perhaps provide some basis to your point of view: how is it wrong for a country to want to use known technology to save lives? Do you really believe there is no difference between patenting medicine and patenting, say, a kitchen appliance? How do you feel Pfizer's profits will sink by drugs entering a market they were never in to begin with?

And lastly- an issue I want to know myself- has anyone taken notice to the fact that "generic drugs" are possible in the first place? What does it say about a medicine manufacturer that a near-identical copy of their medication could actually be manufactured and distributed for a fraction of the cost?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:19 AM on December 21, 2002


This is interesting background: Brazil's solution.

Actually, the problem could be a lot more cut and dried than it is made out to be. The truth is that the gigantic pharmaceutical companies make an enormous margin on AIDS drugs. Out of that margin, a large percentage goes to advertising, and another chunk to research. (I used to have a piece on the exact divvying up of the dollars, but I can't find it at the moment). While I too wish that profitability was not the major driving factor in pharmaceutical research, the fact that it is does not, in this particular case, define the solution. The pharma giants could easily manufacture and distribute these drugs at a tiny fraction of the price that they currently do, while maintaining their patents etc. Their biggest fear is that if developed countries see such (esp. Americans), they will be forced to drop the price globally. Personally, I don't think this is necessarily the case - I think that cut price drugs for those who cannot afford them is a viable solution, and that countries and/or government programs that can afford them will continue to pony up the cash.

Incidentally, this is coming from a person that has done a LOT of work with and for many of the largest pharmaceutical and biotech companies, in various capacities.
posted by babylon at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2002


I'd just like to know why African countries are special. They could have done the same development work as, say, South Korea and Taiwan over the last forty years but instead decided to mostly kill and steal from each other. Not that there weren't outside forces at work in some of these conflicts, but when does it end?

I feel sorry for the people caught up in events, like the local villagers stuck between armies in Rwanda, but I don't see how cheap drugs or seed would get down to them in any case.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:24 AM on December 21, 2002


Also, IMHO, there are some far, far greater villains in the AIDS battle, namely the leaders of South Africa (who flat-out refuses to admit even the existence of the virus) and soon to be China, as well as a number of religious groups that are teaching uneducated and frequently still totally tribal groups of people not to use birth control. The Wall Street Journal, as well as other publications, has done a great series of articles about the AIDS crisis in Africa. Many African nations currently have up to a third of their populations infected. Their economies are being crippled by the rampant deaths among young men and women in their twenties and thirties. Yet, many nations, notably South Africa, are doing little to prevent the spread of AIDS. The mining communities there, where men live hundreds of miles from their wives and families, and where prostitutes are the only women around, combined with deeply entrenched polygamous practices in a number of tribal groups, are already causing a spread of HIV that threatens to destroy entire populations (in the case of some tribes) as well as undermine, in many countries, economies that were just beginning to stabilize.
posted by babylon at 11:28 AM on December 21, 2002


babylon - As far as religious groups that teach ignorant people not to use birth control, well, the USA, among other countries, is positively lousy with them.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:34 AM on December 21, 2002


You ain't just whistlin Dixie, kicking. I'm about as fond of them HERE as I am THERE. The difference is that here, anyway, most (granted, not all, but most) have alternative sources of information. In tribal regions, this is not the case.
posted by babylon at 11:37 AM on December 21, 2002


Some interesting numbers. "The nation's leading drug companies last year spent nearly twice as much on advertising alone than on research and development, and nearly three times more on advertising, administration and executive compensation." Merck only spent 6% of its revenues on research in 2000 and had net profits of 17%. Allowing poor countries to make generic versions of these drugs will have no material impact on drug company profits. That's just lobbyist spin.
posted by JackFlash at 11:56 AM on December 21, 2002


If you care about this issue, from either side, please, please, please read MSF's report Fatal Imbalance: the crisis in research and development for drugs for neglected diseases and peruse the materials on the Access to Essential Medicines website.

(I posted some of this stuff on World AIDS Day, but given the amount of ignorant, murderous bullshit some of you are spouting, I think it's well worth repeating.)
posted by stonerose at 11:56 AM on December 21, 2002


What's the big deal? The WTO or UN or WHO or whatever acronym laden group of blabbering fuckwits are running this show should take a collection from it's member nations and buy the drugs from the pharmas (at a reduced wholesale price) and distribute said drugs through the various NGOs that do this kind of work. That way the needy get the drugs and the pharmas don't have to give away the store. If they spent half the money on drugs that they spend on circle jerk conferences at luxury resorts several times a year they could start saving lives today.
posted by MikeMc at 12:04 PM on December 21, 2002


Thank you, Jack Flash, that is what I was trying to dig up and failing.
posted by babylon at 12:07 PM on December 21, 2002


The industry argues that it spends billions a year on drug research and that if copycat companies can override their patents and manufacture drugs at bargain prices, research will dry up.

This is a crock, why do you think the pharma industry pays for all those generic ads saying they do so much research and try to help so many people? Because it's not entirely true. Research happens at universities then something good happens, the pharma companies move in, pay for some new equipment, move some research into their labs, maybe hire the principle investigator and then a new drug. Sure, you the taxpayer didn't fund the new equipment, or the last stages of the work, so pharma can say they developed X fantastic drug, and it's sorta true. But, You, the taxpayer did fund the initial investigation, which probably lasted years, and you funded all the other thousand investigators that didn't find anything. Science is a building process, not everyone that does research develops a cure for hiv, but they build on each other. Then someone has a breakthrough, pharma buys it up.

I can understand some people's feelings about it if they are looking at it from the perspective of forcing a person to give over something he worked on for less than it's value. It is just not that simple.

Think of it as a shoe factory. If John builds a shoe factory, gets supplies, capital, land and everything he needs and starts making shoes, and Jill puts the laces in and sells the shoes at a price point that prohibits John from having any shoes you might think there is a problem. That analogy works for people in the US without health insurance, for Africans it is a little more complicated as well. They don't directly pay for research, but are they paying in other ways? Are they not paying for our cultural imperialism? For our companies raping their land and taking out everything of value, mining their diamonds, gold oil. Do we owe them nothing? If it is the will of the US taxpayers to give them drugs then they should be given. If the drug companies feel like complaining they should remember where most of their money comes from.
posted by rhyax at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2002


I'd just like to know why African countries are special. They could have done the same development work as, say, South Korea and Taiwan over the last forty years but instead decided to mostly kill and steal from each other.

Mmmm. Well, it would help if the US wouldn't bomb Sudanese pharmaceutical factories, destroying the supply of 50% of that country's medical and veterinarian prescriptive drugs.
posted by Summer at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2002


If they spent half the money on drugs that they spend on circle jerk conferences at luxury resorts several times a year they could start saving lives today.

You've got to be kidding. Those conferences are often heavily paid for by the attendees respective countries, and HIV drugs are not comparable to the cost of a hotel room.
posted by rhyax at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff, you got a little foam thingie going on.. right there... sides of your mouth... there you go.

Thanks. Got it.

That was the funniest thing I've read today. Thanks, XQUZYPHYR.

Followup question for all of you who believe that pharma companies, because they're subsidised by American tax dollars, should give away their drugs to non-americans. What do we get in return besides burgeoning populations? Can we be selective? Will we be asked to give drugs to North Korea, despite their axis-of-evil status?

And nobody has addressed my overlooked point: If we do nothing, not a goddamned thing changes. The sick will continue to be sick EXACTLY as they were before. If we do something, we give away our own resources for the benefit of others, and frankly, as an American, seeing the rest of the world and watching as you complain to us that not only are we doing everything wrong politically, we should also give away what we create because people need it, I'm concerned that if we give you drugs, there will be more of you to complain that we're not doing things right. That's black humor for those of you who already think I'm a heartless bastard. It's a joke. Laugh. Or at least lighten up.

We've got good drugs because we did the damn work on them. We (taxpayers) subsidized them, fine. We should reap the rewards as well. Why should you? Do you give us your exports for free? Are they worth anything to us? Cite specific examples.

I feel sorry for the people caught up in events, like the local villagers stuck between armies in Rwanda, but I don't see how cheap drugs or seed would get down to them in any case. said billysaysthis. Agreed. I said Know the history of the famine in Etheopia? It's got very little to do with not having enough food. What makes anyone think that medicine dispersal would be any better done than food? Man made famine is everywhere. What in the hell makes people think that man made drug famines (of the "you've got all the drugs you need in a warehouse owned by some tinpot dictator (c.f. Saddam, who sells the food/drugs he gets from the UN for hard currency, and buys weapons with them)" variety) are less likely?
which was also promptly ignored.

Good debate style, everyone. I did like the ad hominem attacks (the implication of my foaming at the mouth, and my moral absolutism about something as insignificant as theft and slavery when doing nothing means nothing changes but doing something means that the rest of the world becomes theives in the night. Good one!)

The primary purpose of government is to ensure the long healthy life of those who want it. This must not be prioritised by wealth, but by age, and in today's situation it is the clear duty of richer nations to help save lives in the poorer ones. On whose authority is it the "clear duty?" I don't see it as my clear duty to clean my neighbors yard, do you?

By your own definition of slavery, unless we have collectively sanctioned it, what they are doing with our tax dollars (funding the research itself initially) is the only slavery involved in this question.. says Corky. We have. It's that silly "Voting" thing that many Americans fail to do.

Corky continues with The tunnel-visioned isolation you embrace, ignoring the other 139 members of the WTO, can only serve to diminish the US's capacity to positively influence the world, and increase the hatred felt toward us by an ever-larger number of non-Americans. which is true, except that what the 139 members of the WTO (and hey, shouldn't you all be protesting this, since it's done by, you know, the WTO, who the lefties who like to "get all left-wing on yo' ass" love to protest and burn McDonalds over, or was that some other WTO?) are saying is "gimme" with nothing in return other than burgeoning populations.

Riviera offers arguments that are counterfactual (you should change your politics) and counterintuitive (you should change your politics so you can use your tax dollars via the money spent on pharma research to give cut rate drugs to other people who don't spend their tax dollars to help you) and then *ulp* another ad hominem implying that I'm just an angry child Wow. I can hear you stamping your little foot in absolutist rage, even though you're an ocean away. As my fellow Americans might say, Most Excellent, Dude.

And then there's this: Here's my issue with this: if Merck and Pfizer flood the developing world with drugs to stop people from dying, within decades, these people would most likely be spending their own money on these companies' fourteenth-generation 'stop mild embarrassment' pills. So you can stick the moral absolutes down the toilet: all I'm seeing here is shortsighted business practices. Which again ignores the man-made-famine question and the why-is-it-my-responsibility-to-give-away-the-fruits-of-my-labors question. Moral absolutes go both ways, you know. "You must do it because it is GOOD!" If Merck and Pfizer flood the developing world with drugs to stop people from dying, the only thing we know will happen, assuming the drugs make it past the beurocratic thugs in governments there, is that there will be even larger populations. I'm not clear why this is a good thing, per se. I'm also not clear on whether that's your argument or something else is. If it's something else, please make it clear.

Kablam? Kablam, you're dead on. Kablam's the only one of you who addresses (although obliquely) the man-made-famine issue.

XQUZYPHYR is either misunderstanding my position, or misleading you on it, or some third thing I can't comprehend. Either way, it's no good. It's ridiculous that you're comparing medicine to real estate, let alone slavery. It's even more ridiculous that you're implying any of these companies, whose "blood, sweat, and tears" are comprised significantly of your and my tax dollars, are suddenly going to go bankrupt because people who never would have been able to afford their drugs in the first place are now able to have them. Let's see. You get people to work and pay them for their hours, but do not let them reap the benefits of their miracles. Well, a burger flipper and a PHD making the next Asprin are worth the same thing, they should only be paid an hourly wage, right? (ignoring for a moment that economics suggests that those laborers would simply change their required hourly wage to compensate for the sudden shortfall in income that they no longer reap by not earning fat profit off of their patents) Isn't that what the Soviets tried? Once you produce something, you're expected to give it away. How is that not theft? You made it, and now we want it without having to pay you fair value for it. I'll drop the slavery charge because it's a little harder to defend.

And lastly- an issue I want to know myself- has anyone taken notice to the fact that "generic drugs" are possible in the first place? What does it say about a medicine manufacturer that a near-identical copy of their medication could actually be manufactured and distributed for a fraction of the cost? After the patent period ends, you can make as many generics as you want. C.F. Generic Asprin, Generic Lactose pills, Generic Naproxen. Funny how the system that's in place now actually works, ain't it?

how is it wrong for a country to want to use known technology to save lives? To this strawman, I say "NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THEE IN A VACUUM! THOU ART FINE!"

Do you really believe there is no difference between patenting medicine and patenting, say, a kitchen appliance? Well, lets see. Do you mean legally? No. There is none. Morally? I see much more importance to patenting a medicine than a kitchen appliance. I could care less about innovation in blenders (although all of my OXO kitchenware is pretty cool.) I care a LOT about things like rewarding the guys who came up with the drugs that help me. I want to see them happy. I want to see them rich. I want to see them fat. I want to see them rewarded incredibly well. So well that they'll continue to do amazing work, with the promise that if they do _more_ amazing work, we'll give them MORE PATENTS so they can get MORE MONEY because they DESERVE it, because the fruit of their intellectual labor is saving lives. I don't want you, yes, you X, to be able to set up a factory and get rich off of my work as a drug researcher, just after it comes out, and I don't have a chance to get rich off it myself when I produce a breakthrough drug. This is known as the "Free Rider" problem, is it not?

How do you feel Pfizer's profits will sink by drugs entering a market they were never in to begin with? I think canny people like me will immediately go to poor countries and buy all of our medicine there. And then import it here and sell it at huge markup. It's economics.

Calm the fuck down - I'm quite calm, and actually quite rational. You're swearing now. It's unbecoming. You were much funnier with the foaming thing.

And Riviera, while you do that ad hominem thing with the whole Wow. I can hear you stamping your little foot in absolutist rage, even though you're an ocean away thing, I'll have you know that my foot is a size 10 American, which, while not giant, is quite adequate to the task of keeping me from falling down. And there's no rage at all. A sick wrenching feeling in the pit of my gut that the rest of the world believes that the US is a pile of money and ideas and things that they want and that in exchange for their not dying we should give them everything they want. Strange bit of barter, there. We're the country that started a revolution over "no taxation without representation" and how different is this? "No giving away our intellectual propert in exchange for nothing at all." Ok, it's different. It's not as catchy.

Their biggest fear is that if developed countries see such (esp. Americans), they will be forced to drop the price globally. Personally, I don't think this is necessarily the case - I think that cut price drugs for those who cannot afford them is a viable solution, and that countries and/or government programs that can afford them will continue to pony up the cash. says babylon. While in moral-law-world, where people do what is RIGHT, rather than what's right for them, I agree with you %100. But where there are cut price drugs, people go out of their way to get them. In New York, for example, there's now a thriving underground Cigarette Carton industry, based on the recent hikes of prices on taxes. Economic exit and all. Then there's the Internet, where people have been known to buy drugs from other countries for far less than they're available in their home countries. This relates back to the point I addressed of X's.

Now - would anybody like to actually address the issues I've raised?
1) Man made famines
2) Why America is expected to pay for the rest of the world to stay alive as a moral duty, and then is expected to take the daily blastings that we get from all over the globe. The comments like "your politics are wrong, we have a better health care system, nyah nyah." The "Death To America" coming out of a good portion of the world, etc?
3) Can we be selective in who we give these drugs to, or are we expected to save our enemies?
4) Is capitalism wrong? (that's the subtext of the "go leftwing on your ass" crowd) If so, do you practice it? If not, stop there, please tell me where you live, and how you avoid it. If not, how do you like your hypocrisy?
5) Can you forgive my spelling errors?
6) Can you do all of this without reference to the size of my feet, the foaming of my mouth, and refrain from making other ad hominem attacks?
7) How can you get left on my ass and still support an action by the eeeeevil WTO without making your brain explode?
8) What about drugs tested on animals? Should we share them? I mean, think of the widdwe puppies and kitties.
9) Does anyone in the world give the US their exports for free? Are they worth anything to us? Cite specific examples.

Lastly, I'd like to reiterate Billsaysthis's question of I'd just like to know why African countries are special. They could have done the same development work as, say, South Korea and Taiwan over the last forty years but instead decided to mostly kill and steal from each other. Don't address this one, it's a whole topic on its own, but really, what the heck?
posted by swerdloff at 12:51 PM on December 21, 2002


The WTO or UN or WHO or whatever acronym laden group of blabbering fuckwits are running this show should take a collection from it's member nations and buy the drugs from the pharmas (at a reduced wholesale price) and distribute said drugs through the various NGOs that do this kind of work.

Yes.

But to Summer's Mmmm. Well, it would help if the US wouldn't bomb Sudanese pharmaceutical factories, destroying the supply of 50% of that country's medical and veterinarian prescriptive drugs. I must say no. Based on intelligence reports, the US believed that Al Quaeda was there. Right after the USS Cole. And in fact, they'd been there earlier, but left on a tip that the US was attacking. Remember them? Four airplanes, three buildings, many thousands dead? Yeah. Bin laden and crew. And who in the heck is Shianews as a source? Wouldn't surprise me if Al Quaeda used that space intentionally, on the same theory that Palestinians use Ambulances. Even if you get the perpetrator, it's a worldwide PR catastrophe. I'm not going to say not to blame the US for the Sudan thing, but really, also consider why they attacked. Aren't "Root Causes" important too? I keep hearing that phrase bruited about.
posted by swerdloff at 12:59 PM on December 21, 2002


Here's my proposed compromise solution. I've just thought of it, and it's brilliant.

All of you righteously indignant people, contact all of your righteously indignant friends. Ready? Ok?

Pool your money. Get all your friends to do it. I mean, what's a little money? Now, buy the drugs for these poor starving africans and asians and latin americans and get it to them. In fact, set up a nonprofit to do so.

Or, you can continue to uselessly spout here in MeFi, and make personal attacks on me. Either way. you pick - the easy hypocritical way, or the hard way that might save lives. Once you've made your choice, get back to me.

:)
posted by swerdloff at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2002


Based on intelligence reports, the US believed that Al Quaeda was there. Right after the USS Cole.

The intelligence reports were (laughably) misguided, there was no chemical weapons factory and Bin Laden had been banished by the Sudanese government. Read the links.

Sudan was deemed guilty without trial and half its pharmaceutical capacity destroyed. You think that's just?
posted by Summer at 1:05 PM on December 21, 2002


The links to Shianews?

Got anywhere that I've heard of reporting this? I'm not disputing it or accepting it, I'm just not comfortable with the source.
posted by swerdloff at 1:13 PM on December 21, 2002


And who in the heck is Shianews as a source?

Missed this bit. I linked to Shia news because it spelt out what had happened. There are plenty of other sources. Will the BBC's account of the vindication of the factory owner do?
posted by Summer at 1:17 PM on December 21, 2002


Is capitalism wrong? If so, do you practice it? If not, stop there, please tell me where you live, and how you avoid it. If not, how do you like your hypocrisy?

This is the "Argument" of a bully, it is juvenile and mean. Since you seem so keen on drawing comparisons to slavery.

Ask a slave on the plantation, or a 14 year old prostitute in thailand, "Is slavery/sex for money wrong? If so, do you practice it? If not, stop there, please tell me where you live, and how you avoid it. If not, how do you like your hypocrisy?"

Some things are hard to avoid. It does not mean the person supports it. To call them a hypocrite because you are in the majority forcing your views on them is mean, cruel, and stupid.

Just because we argue on a website does not mean we don't support organizations that are helping sick people.
posted by rhyax at 1:22 PM on December 21, 2002


MSNBC? (scroll to the bottom)
posted by Summer at 1:22 PM on December 21, 2002


Are the pharmecutical companies going to make any money selling their expensive drugs to exceedingly poor people in third world nations?

No. The poor can't afford to buy them.

Are the pharmecutical companies going to lose money should someone else sell generic versions of these drugs to these exceedingly poor people?

No. There is no loss in sales and no loss of profits.

Are the pharmecutical companies scum beyond all comprehension?

Yes. Sure seems like it.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:24 PM on December 21, 2002


Is capitalism wrong? If so, do you practice it? If not, stop there, please tell me where you live, and how you avoid it. If not, how do you like your hypocrisy?

Yes, capitalism in its pure form is wrong. Which is why pure capitalism is not existent in any country in the world, and certainly not in the USA. It's called regulation, and every country on earth practices it to some degree or another. Forcing drug companies to allow the manufacture of generics in the third world is just another form of regulation, not robbery.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:54 PM on December 21, 2002


Lastly, I'd like to reiterate Billsaysthis's question of I'd just like to know why African countries are special. They could have done the same development work as, say, South Korea and Taiwan over the last forty years but instead decided to mostly kill and steal from each other. Don't address this one, it's a whole topic on its own, but really, what the heck?

this is the height if ignorance. africa faces many problems in development, from colonial legacies, to misrule ( most distators were supported as part of the cold war) through to corruption war, famine etc etc.

one of the major factors affecting development is health. for example malaria can bankrupt a family.

as humans we either care for our fellow man, recognising our co-dependancy, or not. it's about morals.
posted by quarsan at 1:56 PM on December 21, 2002


Or, you can continue to uselessly spout here in MeFi, and make personal attacks on me. Either way. you pick - the easy hypocritical way, or the hard way that might save lives. Once you've made your choice, get back to me.

Well, seeing as a monthly sum goes out of my bank to the good people at Médecins Sans Frontières, I think I've already made something of a moral choice with regard to the provision of medical care. And I still think your argument is as shallow as a puddle of piss, especially after that fair-sized novella you just 'uselessly spout[ed]' in order to rail at those picking on you.

If Merck and Pfizer flood the developing world with drugs to stop people from dying, the only thing we know will happen, assuming the drugs make it past the beurocratic thugs in governments there, is that there will be even larger populations. I'm not clear why this is a good thing, per se. I'm also not clear on whether that's your argument or something else is. If it's something else, please make it clear.

You miss the point so completely that I can't be bothered refuting it in detail, since you're not only a callous fool, but a prolix, callous fool. In any case, fff's answer says most of it for me. One point, that I ought to stress: that you appear to think that this crisis provides a happy opportunity to address issues of overpopulation by allowing people to die solely on the basis of where they happen to live... well, you make Malthus look like Mother Teresa. Just as long as the death of a few million brown people doesn't upset your pension plan, yes?
posted by riviera at 1:56 PM on December 21, 2002


I'm with ROU. That's basically penalizing pharm companies b/c they've produced good drugs. I don't believe in slavery, so I don't believe in forcing pharm companies to give their drugs away. Yes, people _need_ medicine and they _need_ to live. No, I don't believe you should _force_ people, at the butt of a gun, to pay for other people's health.

No, you're not with me. I got no problem with us taxing ourselves -- including you -- to pay for medicine for poor countries. I think it would be long-term smart, in addition to kind. So I have no beef with forcing people to pay for other people's health. I have a beef with the collective *US* pointing a finger at some sort of *THEM* and saying that *THEY* have to foot the bill instead of *US* doing so.

I would like a system where governments and the WHO are able to produce any patented drugs without licencing and without making a profit, and sell or give them only to those countries which need them most yet cannot afford them.

How is that better than you taxing yourselves to buy them off the market and giving/selling them to poor countries, except that you don't get a bill? Shouldn't you get a bill, given that it's furthering your preferences?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:56 PM on December 21, 2002


Are the pharmecutical companies going to lose money should someone else sell generic versions of these drugs to these exceedingly poor people?

No. There is no loss in sales and no loss of profits.


Yes there is, because their thug governments will round up large amounts of the supplies and sell them at even cheaper prices back to less-than-reputable actors in the first world in order to build themselves another #$!^@#$ palace. It's already a minor-to-middling problem with AIDS subsidization.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2002


Five Fresh Fish - that's it, in a nutshell.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff:

After the patent period ends, you can make as many generics as you want. C.F. Generic Asprin, Generic Lactose pills, Generic Naproxen. Funny how the system that's in place now actually works, ain't it?

Except, of course, that it doesn't. The Pharmaceutical companies are doing everything in their power to extend their patents and prevent new ones from challenging their sales to maintain a monopoly on specific drug-distribution profits. This is in no way anything that the Pharmaceutical companies are denying, once again claiming they need to protect the "research" that as has already been discussed they don't even do most of anyway.

On a side note, for anyone interested, here's the opinion of Bill Frist, likely the next Senate Majority Leader, therefore the one who would be responsible for bringing adjustments of this to the floor. The outlook is mind-blowingly bad.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:25 PM on December 21, 2002


swerd: After the patent period ends, you can make as many generics as you want. C.F. Generic Asprin, Generic Lactose pills, Generic Naproxen. Funny how the system that's in place now actually works, ain't it?

Actually it is funny but not haha funny. Big pharmaceutical companies have been manipulating the generic market for a long time. The Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals (GAAT) Act was passed recently to stop brand names from delaying generic availability.
posted by whatever at 2:25 PM on December 21, 2002


Since you seem so keen on drawing comparisons to slavery. In my defense, I stepped down from that comparison as overreaching, where I said I'll drop the slavery charge because it's a little harder to defend.

And the bully charge, so much for avoiding ad hominem attacks. And the you're not only a callous fool, but a prolix, callous fool. And prolix is inaccurate. "Tending to speak or write at excessive length." would be an accurate statement of my posts, if more than half of them weren't quoting you verbatim. That said, I salute you anyway, Riviera, as a Mefite who stands behind his principles. Good Mefite (I'd say man, but I'm nondiscriminatory.)

Are the pharmecutical companies going to make any money selling their expensive drugs to exceedingly poor people in third world nations? No. The poor can't afford to buy them. Are the pharmecutical companies going to lose money should someone else sell generic versions of these drugs to these exceedingly poor people? No. There is no loss in sales and no loss of profits. Are the pharmecutical companies scum beyond all comprehension? Yes. Sure seems like it. I'm confused, FFF, why did you leave out the question "If these drugs are available as extremely inexpensive generics in countries full of poor people, will the Rich buy them over the internet, following standard economic theories of supply, demand and exit, harming pharmaceutical companies perhaps irreperably?" Your strawman questions are quite accurate, for what they're worth, but they leave out things like economics. And, of course, there's ROU's bit, too.

The Pharmaceutical companies are doing everything in their power to extend their patents and prevent new ones from challenging their sales to maintain a monopoly on specific drug-distribution profits. Well, that's bad, yes, X, and again, in a vacuum, that's a horrible thing. But just like any other bad idea that hasn't been codified into law, it's just an idea. The phrase "no harm no foul" mean anything to you? As soon as it's a law, we'll talk (and I'll likely agree with you that they're overreaching, just like I agree that the Sonny-Bono-Copyright-Extension-Act is overreaching)

Big pharmaceutical companies have been manipulating the generic market for a long time. The Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals (GAAT) Act was passed recently to stop brand names from delaying generic availability. This is bad as well, but as you point out, we've got a system in place to deal with it. I don't know what kept the system tied up for so long that they didn't address the problem. It's bad that that happened, I agree.

Kickingtheground, thanks for actually addressing one of my questions. Pure capitalism is wrong (although it's never been tried...). That's a fair position to start from, and now that I'm clear on that position, I can understand a lot of the debate here.

And while Quorsan avoids the actual question and calls it ignorance (Quorsan, asking a legitimate question about something about which you do not know is indeed ignorance, which is no shame. I do not know, and am ignorant of the facts, and so I reiterated the question), he does have this reason, which is a reason that I'll both accept, and would support, if it were a reason to do this madness that everyone's proposing. Mind you, my reason is selfish, so get out those ad hominem attacks, I'm ready for them:

"one of the major factors affecting development is health. for example malaria can bankrupt a family." I don't want to lose the possible einsteins. I want to see the third world developed. Personal fetish of mine. I think amazing things could come out of the people in the third world if they had a chance to develop. That's the only reason I'd support for this.

None of this: "it's your obligation to help others." It's not. It's my obligation to do no harm. After that, it's negotiable. If I want to help, and I often do, I will. If it's your obligation to help others, I've got a playstation two I really need, and you have to buy it for me.

Still waiting for a response on why it's anybody's obligation to change the lives of a bunch of other people when doing nothing simply continues the way things have always been. Still waiting for a lot of answers. Instead, I'm told I'm a prolix callous fool.
posted by swerdloff at 3:12 PM on December 21, 2002


Let's see if I can answer all of swerdloff's points in a timely fashion:

1.) Artificial famines (where the provision of basic needs is physically possible, but economic, political, or social circumstances prevent it) are terrible. Using governmental power (through intellectual property law) to prevent potentially life-saving medicine from being produced and distributed to the needy creates an artificial scarcity where none need exist. What's the difference between that and the Mengistu regime withholding food from starving Ethiopians?

2.) The same reason that the U.S. government is expected to provided to provide services and dispense justice to all Americans, while those same Americans constantly criticize the government for this, that, and the other. Simply put: the U.S. is by far the richest and most powerful nation on earth, and basically runs the world. As such, it is generally expected that it will use its wealth and power to do good things in the world when it can. It won't be perfect in these endeavors, but that's why people invented complaining. Americans can take the feedback and use it to become better at performing good works.

3.) The victimized population of a despotic government should be distinguished from that government. Letting thousands of people die because you don't like the dictator who oppresses them, especially when saving their lives does not significantly alter your own security, is a bit perverse.

4.) Personally, I have to admit that capitalism has some significant flaws. Any economic system has to be judged on how well it delivers goods and services to people who need and want them. When a system fails spectacularly to do so, it must be modified, at least on an ad hoc basis, so that people can get what they need.

5.) You are forgiven for your spelling errors. We are none of us perfect.

6.) I have so far.

7.) Even the WTO, like a monkey at a typewriter, can say something right once in a while.

8.) Irrelevant and unconnected. One can support both drug testing on animals (as I do) and also providing those drugs that result to people who need them, even if they didn't happen to win the birth lottery (as I also do).

9.) This is a pretty silly argument. See #2 above. If you collect the US median income (approx. $20,000), you are already more than 20 times richer than the average Nigerian. Asking the poorest countries of the world to give things for free to the United States is like asking a guy with AIDS living in a cardboard box to give some spare change to a doctor with a six-figure salary.

Besides, U.S. drug companies are not being asked to bear any of the production or distribution costs. The only cost they would bear is in a potential loss of artificial monopoly in the wealthy nations, if generic drug smuggling became a problem. So really, it's not like a doctor selling medicine to a homeless guy with AIDS at a loss. It's more like the homeless guy asking the doctor to stop siccing the cops on him for cooking up, for his own personal use, the drug that the doctor sells to her wealthy clients as a scarce and expensive medicine. The doctor can only do that because she knows people in high places who rewrote the law for her, to prevent anyone but that doctor from legally producing the drug. Now she cries theft, when the poor homeless guy is just trying to get the relief that he could not otherwise afford (at her prices)? The moral question is not whether one should give to the poor, but whether one should keep standing in the way of them providing for themselves.

It's doubtful that pharmaceutical firms wouldn't be able to turn a profit if they had to compete with overseas generic drug makers, and research new drugs at the same time. They just wouldn't make as much of a profit. Also, even if private, for-profit research collapsed, there's a handy way to preserve the social good of beneficial drug research: public funding. Another nice thing about publicly funded drug research is that it can be tailored to serve those ends that people feel are good (an AIDS vaccine, malaria treatments, new antibiotics), rather than what makes the big bucks (Viagra, Propecia). But I digress.

Thank you swerdloff, for summarizing your points. It makes it a lot easier to discuss them.
posted by skoosh at 3:30 PM on December 21, 2002


Guys, do not forget that when folks were dying of Anthrax in the US, we (and Canada) threatened to blow away Bayer's patent. No country in the world would let intellectual "property" stand in the way of saving their citizens nor should they.
posted by Wood at 4:16 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff says: "On whose authority is it the "clear duty?" I don't see it as my clear duty to clean my neighbors yard, do you?"

If you really don't think that it's worth spending any of a wealthy government's money on the guaranteed saving of lives in poorer countries, then there's no way I can debate with you. Personally, I'm able to look beyond my neighbour's yard in my desire to improve the world of the future.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:21 PM on December 21, 2002


Bayer's patent on Cipro, I should say.
posted by Wood at 4:23 PM on December 21, 2002


1) What's the difference between that and the Mengistu regime withholding food from starving Ethiopians? Ability to act? We're not sovereign in those nations and would hvae to go through the various regimes. Yes, the USA is the big bad USA, but we're not sovereign elsewhere, and short of declaring war, we have to deal with the tinpots.

2) I would quibble. The US Government is responsible to the people of the US as we vote for them and pay taxes to them. The rest of the world comes to the US for handouts, and we give them. The only question is, are we obliged to keep giving the handouts everytime we do something good?

3) Absolutely. Let's invade Iraq and save some people people! Get rid of the despotic fascist! Oh wait, wrong thread. (Same logic, though)

4) Capitalism has never been tried. The regulated capitalism we've got isn't capitalism. Not that I'm calling for deregulation (witness enron) but capitalism has never been tried.

5) Thanks.

6) Very well do, I salute you, skoosh, you are a scholar and a gentleperson.

7) I have no non-snarky response to that, so I'll hold my tongue.

8) You won the birth lottery? That's wicked cool. (I was being snarky about the animals, sorry, the widdwe puppies and kitties comment was meant to bely that.

9) So, instead, we'll hold a gun to the head of the successful one and say "share." Doesn't seem equitable to me. I support giving free drugs to the Masai, they gave the US cattle after September 11th, which, for them, was HUGE, although for us merely symbolic. They gave until it hurt. Who else has? And why should we be expected to if nobody else is? Peril of being the best? That makes being the best less valuable and less attractive, no?

The only cost they would bear is in a potential loss of artificial monopoly in the wealthy nations, if generic drug smuggling became a problem. Which is, you know, enormous, but we can ignore it if you'd like.

It's more like the homeless guy asking the doctor to stop siccing the cops on him for cooking up, for his own personal use, the drug that the doctor sells to her wealthy clients as a scarce and expensive medicine. Almost. It's more like the homeless guy asking the doctor to stop siccing the cops on him for cooking up for his personal use, and the use of everyone he can think to sell it to, and for his personal fortune because he's going to sell it way below market, the scarce and expensive medicine, assuming by homeless guy you mean cousin-of-the-tinpot-dictator-who-also-runs-the-State-Pharmaco.

Why does nobody address the issue of "if you give it away for free in place B, the wealthy citizens paying out the nose in place A will GO TO PLACE B TO BUY IT?" That's the economic theory I keep mentioning that gets left unheard.

Yes, getting drugs to the poor is a noble thing to do. No, repealing patent law to do so will not acheive that end.

Also, even if private, for-profit research collapsed, there's a handy way to preserve the social good of beneficial drug research: public funding. This is neither new nor adequate. The AIDS issue is a bit of sand in the eyes in your argument, because it's precisely this attempt to undermine the market that has caused big pharmas to wicked slow-down their research. It doesn't make sense to them.

Go read the heartbreaking work by HIV+ columnist Andrew Sullivan on why AIDS drugs that could really help people have been stalled and research essentially tapered off, based on people like you all who want to "do good" by eviscerting IP rights.
posted by swerdloff at 4:36 PM on December 21, 2002


The idea of changing poor, destitute nations who's people are dying full price for life saving drugs is disgusting. It's even more disgusting that the majority of the profit made from these drugs goes to executive bonuses and advertising (and 6% or so to research). It's reprehensible.

The nationalistic bullshit that's been spouted in this thread baffles me. These people are human beings. Humans who are dying from horrible illnesses that could be easily prevented by just giving them the fucking drugs. It's disgusting that these companies are more motivated by profit than humanitarianism. I don't think words can even describe how wrong it is.
posted by SweetJesus at 4:46 PM on December 21, 2002


Still waiting for a response on why it's anybody's obligation to change the lives of a bunch of other people when doing nothing simply continues the way things have always been.

Not an obligation, but a moral imperative. It's called "helping people." Reportedly, it feels good. See also "empathy."

Why does nobody address the issue of "if you give it away for free in place B, the wealthy citizens paying out the nose in place A will GO TO PLACE B TO BUY IT?" That's the economic theory I keep mentioning that gets left unheard.

If it is sufficiently difficult to get the cheaper alternative, this effect will be negligible. (Importing drugs from Africa? When I can't even get Spanish Absinthe?) I imagine this would be a minor nuisance on the scale of shoplifting, at worst.

Listen, I doubt anybody wants scientists or even the corporations to go empty-handed. I am sure they are getting adequate compensation for their efforts. Nobody wants to rob anybody-- at most, this would shave a tiny bit off of their outrageous profits to save a lot of people. What people are objecting to is the homicidal greed.
posted by muckster at 4:48 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff says: Why does nobody address the issue of "if you give it away for free in place B, the wealthy citizens paying out the nose in place A will GO TO PLACE B TO BUY IT?"

I don't understand. Surely importing drugs requires a licence, which could be denied in these cases?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:51 PM on December 21, 2002


Swerdloff-
"What do we get in return besides burgeoning populations? "

What do we get? Some kid that you don't even know gets to live and have a hard life growing up somewhere that would probably leave you weeping like a baby if you had to spend a week there.
Yeah, it would be a damn shame to help someone that has to put up with an insane dictator or a rival tribe that occasionally drops in to hack people up for laughs.
And besides, those people smell funny.
posted by 2sheets at 4:53 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff says: Why does nobody address the issue of "if you give it away for free in place B, the wealthy citizens paying out the nose in place A will GO TO PLACE B TO BUY IT?"

I'm sure the rich of the world will be flying in and out of Africa to save a few bucks on their asthma medication.

Yeah... That's going to be happening sometime soon.
posted by SweetJesus at 4:57 PM on December 21, 2002


there are already substantial differences in drug prices between different countries. Its pretty common knowledge that drug are significantly cheaper in countries like canada, mexico, and israel, than they are in america. so far, these drug pricing differences haven't caused the collapse of big pharms, so i don't see how this would.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:01 PM on December 21, 2002


I think perhaps the time has come to just abandon the rights of intellectual property owners. It is no longer feasible to enforce or defend the claims to rewards from ideas. From the music, book, movie and drug industries, it seems more and more that once an original work has been produced, its' "official" value is drastically different from the actual cost of reproduction and transportation. The cost of reproduction and transportation has, in many cases (music), vanished completely. In other cases (drugs), it has been reduced drastically by manufacturing advances. For many years these companies have covered the high costs of developing, refining, and marketing their prodcuts through raising the price of the goods themselves. If the consumer can easily bypass the entire movie industry and download the movie, burn the dvd in their house for free, what happens to the movie industry?

With the increase of mechanized production and distribution, as well as the free flow of information and media within the web, it seems humans' role in the world would increasingly be the creators, one thing machines do not excell at. Yet i dont see how to translate the value of a decade worth of research into cash, when all that is actually being transferred is a $5 chunk of chemicals. With only the patent office and copyright police holding back the tide, i dont see this trend continuing for much longer. While the inventors and researchers of this world deserve more than a hearty pat on the back, that may be exactly what they get.
posted by sophist at 5:53 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff : Interesting but completely ignored point - before these drugs existed, these people were going to die from these diseases as was. Net net, they're in exactly the same place they were before these drugs came out.

Yes, very interesting... AND offensive. If the drug company's gave away these drugs to help these populations in need, wouldn't they (drug companies) "net net" be in the same place as if they didn't help, and the populations suffer and die?

I guess we all have our priorities...
posted by bluno at 6:06 PM on December 21, 2002


ROU-Zenophobe, Swerdloff - the pharmaceutical industry is very close to, or a the top of the profitablility list. They maintain this by spending vast sums on lawyers, lobbyists, and similar agents. A recent Mefi thread brought up the fact that the ratio of Pharmacuetical industry lobbyist $ going to the Republican. vs. the Democratic party has shifted DRAMATICALLY - from 56% to 44%, respectively, in '92 to 77% to 22%, respectively, in 2002! Big Pharm is, overwhelmingly, banking on the GOP.

Wobh - "I do not see any hypocrisy in living your life as comfortably as you are able to." - what if this comes at the expense of other human beings, other animals, and the natural world in general? You do not leave in a bubble.

ROU_Xenophobe - "It seems to me that if we, the collective rich first world, want the poor nations to have cheap drugs then we, the whole collective rich first world, should tax ourselves and pay for in one way or another. Shunting the entire cost onto pharm firms and their stockholders as foregone profit seems unkosher to me.
"
- I am not opposed to this proposal. It's a matter of degree!

Kablam - you wouldn't be talking about genetically modified and (or) "terminator" seed varieties designed to hook 3rd world countries on Monsanto seeds, now, would you? "BUT THEY WOULDN'T MAKE AS MUCH MONEY because of smaller yields. Sounds like raw greed to me." Perhaps, but it sounds like avoidance of mass starvation to me. I think the "raw greed factor" is more common in the first world: the US, for example, is quite low among in the industrialized countries in terms of the percentage of it's GNP that it donates to poor nations.

"I'm with ROU. That's basically penalizing pharm companies b/c they've produced good drugs. I don't believe in slavery, so I don't believe in forcing pharm companies to give their drugs away." - So millions should die to protect pharmaceutical industry profits then. It's OK to say it. Just stake out a clear position.

Wobh - "Who would be the worse devil, our guys or theirs? Remember, "the money is in treatment, not the cure", but theft isn't charity either. I guess I'm just saying that it's a tougher call than the article makes it sound." - I agree

Sourbrew - !!!!!!!

God Damn! This is a long (and deep) post. My bit will have to be in 2 installments
posted by troutfishing at 6:44 PM on December 21, 2002


the pharmaceutical industry is very close to, or a the top of the profitablility list.

So? A western/OECD society is going to be orders of magnitude more 'profitable' than any industry. So the society should fork out the dough if they want to give drugs to poor people. Of course, then we'd get a bill too, and would know how much it cost. And we might have to start asking questions about whether paying for their medicine is better or not-as-good-as paying for their educations, electrification, or some other good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:00 PM on December 21, 2002


I still don't understand why the UN's flaccid appendage the WHO can't buy the drugs from the pharmas and distribute them. The Canadian government seems to be able to negotiate favorable prices for brand name drugs from their manufacturers why is it that nobody else can?

It seems to me the fine folks at the UN are far more interested in riding around in limos and jetting off to conferences so they can feel important than they are in doing any actual work. The amount of money the UN wastes every year is atrocious which is why the US had refrained from paying it's full dues for several years.

There surely has to be a way to do this in which the poor get the meds without the pharmas getting their property expropriated
posted by MikeMc at 7:05 PM on December 21, 2002


I'm sure the rich of the world will be flying in and out of Africa to save a few bucks on their asthma medication. Surely you're right, because your idea, as phrased, is economically not logical. However, my oft repeated and oft overlooked point about ordering things over the Internet...

- So millions should die to protect pharmaceutical industry profits then. It's OK to say it. Just stake out a clear position. That's not the clear position. The clear position is "So millions who are currently dying will continue to do so through the inaction of pharmaceutical companies because there is no incentive to save those lives, outside of the good, in and of itself, of saving lives. This, for companies whose only subsistence and profit is based on saving lives, is not a very good argument."

If it's such a damn fine idea, MikeMC is right. The UN should stop bleating about Israel for one whole day, and start spending their money on far larger swathes of population, like the HIV+ population of Africa. But the UN probably isn't interested in Africa - no oil there.

And - to answer the question of why people would create things without IP, sheerly for the joy of creating, absolutely true. But not as effectively or quickly.

And we might have to start asking questions about whether paying for their medicine is better or not-as-good-as paying for their educations, electrification, or some other good. Also an excellent point.

You seem to all have painted me as someone who wants to see dead babies littered across the non-USA world. Not so. I simply don't believe that this is a good way to go about doing things. Giving away something of value for free because people can't afford it is charity, and charity is good, but at what point does it stop becoming charity freely given, and start becoming dependency?

the ratio of Pharmacuetical industry lobbyist $ going to the Republican. vs. the Democratic party has shifted DRAMATICALLY - from 56% to 44%, respectively, in '92 to 77% to 22%, respectively, in 2002! Big Pharm is, overwhelmingly, banking on the GOP. Which shouldn't surprise you, considering Shrub's popularity and the control of both house and senate are in the GOP's hands (for the moment...) - Should the back the weak horse or the strong horse?

Yes, very interesting... AND offensive. If the drug company's gave away these drugs to help these populations in need, wouldn't they (drug companies) "net net" be in the same place as if they didn't help, and the populations suffer and die? says bluno. For my response, go to your little "search this page" button in your favorite browser, and look for the word "economics." You should find the resounding answer (no) littered throughout my posts. Let me explain in more simple terms (not any slight on anyones intelligence, I just am trying to keep things clear here)

I have an intangible easily reproduced good. Let's call it X, ok? And X saves lives. My entire livelihood depends on the sale of X, which I created. (no, X is not the club drug, stop thinking along drug lines) In fact, the only product I have is X. Well, I've also got Y and Z, too, but they're all the same family of products, and they all save lives.

You are dying.

Explain why it is in my best interests to let you live, so that I may go hungry. Remember, X (and y and z, all of a category) are the things I rely on to survive.

Now, a new proposal comes in that says "you have to give away X (and y and z, yadda yadda) and you will not be paid, and your brother in law is going to start making X and undercutting your price by %99, because a whole lot of people will die if he doesn't." What does economics tell you you'll do? Now, at full price, a lot of rich folks, and folks in Canada and Britain and Scandinavia can have your product, but people in Africa can't. And we want to save the people in Africa, because that's the right thing to do.

It's now put to you:
We want to save millions in africa, and in exchange, we're asking you not to be a prick and to give away your livelihood, and we're asking your family and all of your friends to subsidize the saving of africa." Having never been to Africa, not knowing anyone in Africa, and knowing that this basically means someone on another continent will take what you make and reproduce it a zillion times over and claim that it's X and virtually give it away, what do you do? Do you

A) Take the food out of your own children's mouths so that millions of Africans can live? I mean, profitting off of other people's misery is bad! And so you really shouldn't be compensated and make a good salary and so forth if what you do SAVES LIVES but doesn't save them all, right? In fact, you should be ashamed that you've saved rich people while the poor ones are dying. How dare you be so selfish as to think that because they need it, you shouldn't be forced to give it? And how dare rich people mind paying %99 more than poor people for the same thing? After all, being rich is usually an accident, and the poor need it. (Does everyone spot the logical inconsistency there? If not, I can make the point clearer for you)

OR:

B) Go to Dick Cheney?
posted by swerdloff at 7:35 PM on December 21, 2002


So millions should die...

When did that become a bad thing? Seems to me it's a worthy goal that we should all be striving towards. After all, we have to start somewhere, and OK a few million people dying is really just the beginning -- but it's a start!
posted by aramaic at 7:35 PM on December 21, 2002


Well, following the logic of the "everybody but me" in here, shouldn't we buy poor African villagers cars, too? (Ok, ROU, you're exempt) I mean, if they can get free drugs but not get to the hospitals because their horse is sick too, well, that's no good. And we should provide them with cheap gas, too (see, it is all about oil... ;) ) and we should airdrop in mechanics while we're at it, because really, what's a car without a mechanic? We should also probably send food, despite what we already know about man-made famine from earlier in the thread. I mean, if they get free AIDS drugs and then die of malnurishment, well, that's bad too. I mean, we'll just assume that the dictators of the third world will give up and let us feed the people they've been systematically starving and cleansing.

And we should export doctors over there. Force them to treat the sick. It's not really different, they need expert medical care to stay alive, so we must send it to them. We must force doctors to work on them, because really, being a doctor is a skill that will save thousands of lives, and millions in the aggregate, and it's our duty to save them. We can force doctors to treat starving people for a month or two every year, because hell, doctors make too much money already.

Potable water is important too. Let's do that! (Ok, that's actually a good idea, bute not the distinction between potable water and drugs is that there is no patent on clean water, and in fact, helping get potable water to villages across Africa is a project I could happily sink money into...)

And of course, while we're at it, we should probably build them better houses. They'll need good fiberglass insulation so they don't get cold (wouldn't want them to get the flu) and since we're in a nice rich country, we should foot the bill. And clothing. Lots of clothing. The GAP, Banana Republic and so on should be forced to airdrop large amounts of clothing so that they can... no, sorry, that would be cultural imperialism because then Africans would dress like Americans. That one's more tricky.

They'll need lawyers, too, for when they get into car accidents, or their doctors commit malpractice or the medicines fail. Send them a few hundred thousand, we can probably spare them.

But we can't send them things like new governments, ideas, democracy, a constitution, the bill of rights, anything like that, that would be imperialism and very very bad.

But we should send them all of the appurtenances of western democracy. What am I forgetting? OOhhh! Tractors! Better send them tractors. How will they farm without tractors?

Am I missing anything? (and nobody say "the point" because that would be silly, I'm not _missing_ the point, i'm trying to _make_ a point)

Although information should be free, we can't send them music on napster because that would be cultural imperialism again. But we should probably send them computers, because those will help them compete in the modern workplace, and otherwise, their standards of living will be low.

What else should we send them?
posted by swerdloff at 7:49 PM on December 21, 2002


Well, to answer the question, I was referring to the "terminator" seeds rather than the GM seeds. An interesting story, really.
The USDA realized that the US, Canada and Argentina were becoming the breadbasket for much of the world, and (wisely) decided to produce and encourage production of seed grain that would grow in much harsher situations, to decentralize production.
Monsanto was encouraged to expand on this program by making better and higher yielding grains for sale. Again, though the grains were very expensive to produce, the US paid a partial subsidy to keep the price low. But as low as it went, the locals would still re-use seed for several seasons, so they would only pay a fraction of the intended low partially-subsidized price.
This lost much of the profit Monsanto hoped to get for selling its not-completely-subsidized product, so they invented the "Terminator" brand of seed. Simply, seed that was third-generation sterile.
This meant that the third and fourth world farmers had to pay the low subsidized price each year if they wanted the higher yielding grain. They could still buy generic seed grain, but it wouldn't be worth as much at market as the expensive, high-quality Monsanto grain.
So instead of paying for grain one year and getting four crops worth of seed for the price of one, they would only get what they paid for--at a price the USDA figured they could pay.

And did they scream bloody murder. But in this instance, I would have to find in favor of Monsanto. But as far as the GM controversy, I think Monsanto is totally in the wrong, and so much so that it will force major revisions in international law concerning GM patents.
posted by kablam at 8:23 PM on December 21, 2002


Swerdloff- despite your biases, US charitable giving (to the rest of the world), as a % of GNP, is the stingiest (the least generous) of all the world's developed industrial democracies. TABLE

RE: Swerdloff on:_ "for all of you who believe that pharma companies, because they're subsidised by American tax dollars, should give away their drugs to non-americans. What do we get in return besides burgeoning populations?" MY TRANSLATION= "They're breeding like rabbits....they'll die off anyway. What's the point...and what do WE get in return? After all, we live in a hermetically sealed environment. The rest of the world effects us little, if at all. "

I'd just like to know why African countries are special. They could have done the same development work as, say, South Korea and Taiwan over the last forty years but instead decided to mostly kill and steal from each other. Not that there weren't outside forces at work in some of these conflicts, but when does it end?

"I feel sorry for the people caught up in events, like the local villagers stuck between armies in Rwanda, but I don't see how cheap drugs or seed would get down to them in any case.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:24 AM PST on December 21" So why bother?

Swerdloff - The "personal responsiblility" solution? Shame abou the irresponsibility of all those 3rd world children, born into poverty, and offered such a helping hand by 1st world colonialism and 1st world corporate power (and the benevolent hand of the CIA during the Cold War), They are quite irresponsiblle, I say!!!

Swerdloff quote: "The rest of the world comes to the US for handouts, and we give them. The only question is, are we obliged to keep giving the handouts everytime we do something good?"

SPEAKING OF HANDOUTS: "In 1996, this is how we spent money in American (in billions of dollars):

2.5 world missions
25 gardening
2.5 chewing gum
31 tobacco products
8 movies
34 state lotteries
14 cosmetics
49 soft drinks
21 pet food
58 Alcoholic beverages
22 hunting
24 eating out ($842 per person in the US)
Ronsvalle and Ronsvalle, Behind the Stained Glass Window

* Howard Dayton of Crown Ministries, Inc. calculates that Americans now spend more money each year on gambling than they do on groceries and that the average church member spends an average of $20 a year on foreign missions while the average American gambles $1,174 a year."

DAMN THOSE CHEWING GUM EQUIVALENT HANDOUTS!
posted by troutfishing at 8:30 PM on December 21, 2002


MikeMc, et al, I just want to point out that the U.N./WHO can't simply do as it/they please(s). The U.N. isn't a world government: it doesn't exist apart from the whims of the countries that comprise it. In other words, if there isn't a consensus of the most powerful U.N. member states in favor of a certain action, the U.N. and its agencies can't take that action. THAT is exactly WHY we're talking about the U.S. government's obstructionism in the first place.

It also seems strange to suggest that the U.N. should subsidize an industry that is profiteering (as opposed to profiting) from the misery of the dying millions. Why should the U.N. (which means its countries, which in turn means the taxpayers of wealthy states) pay the marketing costs (limos and jets indeed!) of big pharma??? Who is fucked up here?

Again: please go and read the MSF/Access to Essential Medicines pages, and learn about what NGOs are doing, and get out there and help.

Swerdloff: your hyperbole is bizarre and counterproductive. Can you really not draw the appropriate ethical distinction between actions that are necessary to halt an epidemic, and the strawmen you're setting up?

You also use this tactic: "well, they'll just fuck it up, so why should we give them anything?" This is a gross oversimplification, and it smacks of racism. It ignores numerous examples of successful AIDS treatment programmes in the South. It also brings to mind the question: at what point does your moral compass lead you to say, about any given social initiative: "okay, there's too much that can go wrong here, so let's not bother"?

Many of the problems that you point to actually DO call for the kind of massive Western/Northern involvement that you mock preemptively; that you assume would be viewed as "imperialism." To argue, as you do, that foreign policies based on genuine giving would be ill-received, is to misread the source of the world's current frustration with the U.S.

Finally, your 'first, do no harm' argument ignores the fact that stonewalling cooperation in the face of universal, global opposition IS a harmful act.
posted by stonerose at 8:36 PM on December 21, 2002


What am I forgetting? OOhhh! Tractors! Better send them tractors. How will they farm without tractors?

Many of us were trying to have a conversation with you, but our points went unaswered and instead we got this racist tripe. I'm outta here, troll.
posted by muckster at 8:39 PM on December 21, 2002


KABLAM - "Well, to answer the question, I was referring to the "terminator" seeds rather than the GM seeds. An interesting story, really.
The USDA realized that the US, Canada and Argentina were becoming the breadbasket for much of the world, and (wisely) decided to produce and encourage production of seed grain that would grow in much harsher situations, to decentralize production."


I'll defer to Vandana Shivsa on this one: "In Motion Magazine: You touched on it, but what seems key to this takeover is what the RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) people call the "terminator technology". Can you talk about that?

Dr. Vandana Shiva: When we plant a seed there's a very simple prayer that every peasant in India says: "Let the seed be exhaustless, let it never get exhausted, let it bring forth seed next year." Farmers have such pride in saying "this is the tenth generation seeds that I'm planting," "this is the fifth generation seed that I'm planting." Just the other day I had a seed exchange fair in my valley and a farmer brought Basmati aromatic rice seed and he said "this is five generations we've been planting this in our family". So far human beings have treated it as their duty to save seed and ensure its continuity. But that prayer to let the seed be exhaustless seems to be changing into the prayer, "let this seed get terminated so that I can make profits every year" which is the prayer that Monsanto is speaking through the terminator technology -- a technology whose aim is merely to prevent seed from germinating so that they don't have to spend on policing.

It's not that they don't yet have means. Hybrid seeds are also not good for saving. It was the first time they found a tool to force farmers to come back to them. A market every year. But the difference is that hybrid seeds don't give good seed. It's not that they fail to germinate. They will still segregate into their parent lines. They'll still give you some kind of crop. You will not have absolute devastation.

Patents are also a away to prevent farmers from saving seed. But with patents you still have to do policing, you still have to mobilize your detectives to ensure that farmers aren't saving seeds. The terminator is an extremely secure technology for corporations like Monsanto because neither do they have to do the policing, nor do they have to worry whether some segregation works, now you just basically terminate. But this is not just a violence against farmers whose basic right, in my view, is seed saving. A farmer's duty, is protecting the earth, maintaining it's fertility, and maintaining the fertility of seed. That is part of being a farmer. A farmer is not a low-paid tractor driver, that's a modern definition of what a farmer is. The real definition of a farmer is a person who relates to the land and relates to the seed and keeps it for future generations, keeps renewing it, fertility.

The search for this technology comes out of a violence to that basic ethic that farmers must have if they are to be good farmers. But it is also even deeper because now it is becoming a violence against nature because in a way Monsanto is saying we will stop evolution because evolution creates freedom."

posted by troutfishing at 8:43 PM on December 21, 2002


" it is becoming a violence against nature because in a way Monsanto is saying we will stop evolution because evolution creates freedom." so much for the 'free market', eh?
posted by troutfishing at 8:51 PM on December 21, 2002


I don't say they'll screw it up, stonerose, I'll say that their dictators won't let them have it. Difference of kind, not of degree.

We can only hope for more people like this, but I refuse to force people to act this way.

So what, Stonerose, is acceptable to give? Medicine but not ideas?

Finally, your 'first, do no harm' argument ignores the fact that stonewalling cooperation in the face of universal, global opposition IS a harmful act. I'm confused by this one, quite sincerely. Universal global opposition by the people who are in need, not by the people who can do anything? Because I can proactively help, I must?

How is it a harmful act when a group of people says "no" to a request to give something of theirs away for nothing? To put a gun in my own mouth and shoot myself, I'll say no. Even if it means you, your family, and a million africans get to live. Is that wrong? (Put aside any picture you have in your head of me as a baby-eating-lunatic)

Many of the problems that you point to actually DO call for the kind of massive Western/Northern involvement that you mock preemptively; that you assume would be viewed as "imperialism." To argue, as you do, that foreign policies based on genuine giving would be ill-received, is to misread the source of the world's current frustration with the U.S. giving in exchange for what? Of course gifts are well received! It's Christmas time, I know that as well as anybody. A foreign policy based on giving things away for free would have America the Santa Claus. Everybody loves Santa! Well, except those mean spirited people who think that organized religion is bad news, and so santa has to go, so no more presents! Similarly, America giving handouts to the rest of the world puts us in that position. Yay for the free drugs! But good lord, you can't tell us how to run our country, we don't want any of what you're selling, just what you're giving. Don't give us that "democracy" crap, we prefer how we have things, just gimme. That's how I see this. Nobody has dissuaded me yet.

I've been called names, but I'm a grown man, I can take that. I've learned some interesting things about Sudan and GM food, but they're semi-offtopic. And now I'm a troll and a racist? Another excellent ad hominem, utterly devoid of discussion or anything of value. Thanks, Muckster, for taking the fun out of the discussion. I'm through here. (and I fail to see how saying that people need tractors to farm makes me a racist, or elevates the debate, or educates anybody, or is in the spirit of goodwill, but hey, it's a good way to shut up an otherwise interesting discussion in which I was learning things I didn't know, well done) I'll be happy to take this to email with people like Troutfishing who have things to teach me (and maybe I'm wrong, I accept that) but to people like Muckster, I say "Good Day, Mefite."
posted by swerdloff at 8:53 PM on December 21, 2002




(I don't mean to keep using africans as an example, I think that may be why people are pegging me as a racist. I wouldn't put a gun into my mouth and pull the trigger so every single person on Manhattan could live, either. Or people in Tennessee. I don't care where it is. I use the Africa case because their medicinal condition is by far the poorest that I can think of.)
posted by swerdloff at 8:57 PM on December 21, 2002


Take the food out of your own children's mouths so that millions of Africans can live?

I have yet to see a strong argument that relaxing the patent laws on life-saving medication in the third-world will damage the pharmaceutical industry, much less bankrupt it. Take a look at the top 50 drugs ranked in terms of sales last year (page 13, pdf). These few drugs are 43% of the US market. These are first-world drugs. These are drugs with commercials. Where are the disappearing profits?

(Africa: if you suffer from persistent heartburn on two or more days a week — even though you've treated it and changed your diet — you may have a potentially serious condition called acid reflux disease)
posted by eddydamascene at 9:07 PM on December 21, 2002


Take the food out of your own children's mouths so that millions of Africans can live?

Did I say that?

I think I need to read the previews of my posts.

Good lord.

I'm done here, in part, because I'm feeling foolish and sheepish, and in part because I've been ad hominemed to death.
posted by swerdloff at 9:11 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff: here's a quote for you.....

"life is like a swimming pool, most of the noise comes from the shallow end"

i look forward to discussing these issues with you, once you've grown up. your comments on africa are simplistic to the point of idiocy.
posted by quarsan at 10:41 PM on December 21, 2002


Wow, that was a LOT to read/skim) through. Alas, I think this thread misses two huge points: a) especially in africa, it COMPLETEY avoids the problem of FAMINE. If we can't even get food to the poor, how in the hell will we get drugs that would be profitable to corrupt dictators to the poor. Too much incentive for the corrupt to steal drugs (as they do with food) and last time i checked, drugs do not cure hunger. b) As many ethicists agree (i'm too lazy to google right now), none of this does a lick of good untill the population is under control. If their population increases, it will only increase the need of cheap stuff (and by cheap stuff, i mean stuff at low prices) creating further dependance on us creating one big vicious cycle (of which there won't really be any future monetary increase- if Africa can freeload for now, why stop in the future? And if the US tried to stop giving away stuff for this exact reason, then foul would be called again by the same exact people). Wohoo.
posted by jmd82 at 10:47 PM on December 21, 2002


Why don't the big pharmaceutical companies open up manufacturing plants in Africa? They could hire HIV+ people, pay them a fair wage (which would still no doubt be far less than they'd pay in a developed country), and supply them with the drugs they need as a benefit. Then they could provide medicine at a lower price with all the money they've saved in manufacturing, build a customer base of happy, healthy people, and open up an entirely new market.

Letting the continent implode, ravaged unnecessarily by epidemic, would be a horrible business mistake
posted by Soliloquy at 11:06 PM on December 21, 2002


swerdloff, just one question: part of your argument against allowing generic drugs on the market seems to be that forcing corporations to ease up on their patents would violate the tenets of capitalism. Another non-sharing argument you bring out in this thread posits that corporations allowing this would run the risk of having another company provide a reasonably priced and effective (and possibly improved) alternative version of the drug. Is it just me, or does the latter part of that sound suspiciously like... open-market capitalism? I'm not sure I understand your position.

But sure, let's keep the profitable secrets of disease treatment all to ourselves. Those who can't afford it can fend for themselves; it's not our problem. It shouldn't matter to us whether or not a sizable percentage of the world's population becomes a disease vector. The rich get the treatment, the poor get the shaft, and never the twain shall meet. I'm sure it'll work-- just like it did with tuberculosis!

Oh, wait...

(We're debating this? Remind me to step up my plan to escape the planet.)
posted by tyro urge at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2002


I ♥ swerdloff, I really do.

And his arguments were splendid too. Even those of us who didn't comment were reading with feelings of awe and respect.

Thanks.
posted by hama7 at 11:49 PM on December 21, 2002


Well, following the logic of the "everybody but me" in here, shouldn't we buy poor African villagers cars, too? (Ok, ROU, you're exempt)

No I'm not -- you leave me out of it. Buying poor African villagers cars, or at least shipping them functional beater trucks, would be laudably kind and probably smart in the long-term, and I might well vote for someone promising to tax us to do so even though that means sending men with guns to force the money out of you. I'd object, though, to making the car companies do it uncompensated.

In the long-run, our grandkids would be better off with a prosperous, healthy, stable and free Africa (and South America, etc) to trade with (and vacation in and emigrate to and all that jazz) than they will be with the godforsaken hellhole the world will actually present them with, though watching what happens as subsaharan African populations crash will be interesting (like listening to Dahmer is interesting).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:19 AM on December 22, 2002


Ok, I'm going to have to recant some of my previous statements (and you can all continue to hate me if you need to, but I've been thinking about this topic a lot today, obviously)

There's a perfectly good reason, that both jives with my thoughts on doing things for selfish reasons and with what's been said here, to support giving drugs away. And I completely missed it in my "Capitalism is good, stop talking badly about capitalism, I want to have capitalisms love child" banter. (And while I was trying to get responses, I still think that while imperfect, capitalism is the best system I've seen so far)

But here's what I missed. And I know that I said four posts ago that I'd shut up, but I can't let myself ignore this, I feel I'd be remiss if I walked away now.

It was Tyro's point about tuberculosis. And the point that nobody drove home to me, although had they mentioned it, I'd've stopped dead in my tracks and walked away feeling like an idiot. Disease mutates. AIDS, in particular, mutates quickly. Why is that relevant? More patents!! Muhuhahaha.... kidding. (I swear. Put down the pointy sticks and sharpened rocks. And stop with the namecalling, you know who you are.)

Disease mutates, which means that the best thing that anyone can do to protect themself, is help other people get healthy. It's not about charity, it's about public health. Sounds counterintuitive at first, which is why I missed it. Or maybe I shouldn't post at 3am after a full day of work and this doesn't make any sense. Dunno. (And I'm sure that whoever in here has been fact checking me will explain why I'm wrong yet again)

But the more healthy people there are, the more disease we eradicate, the better off we all are, no? I really have to admit that if a million people die in Asia tomorrow, I won't know. Statistics have no impact on me, and why should they? Dry numbers? Boring as hell. The idea of AIDS or Ebola or something else equally bad mutating into something airborn because Pharmacos didn't do enough with the knowledge they gleaned? Scares the living crud out of me. Not that that'll happen per se, but you get the picture. Capitalism is useless when you're dead, yes?

Now, while I still don't believe that the WTO is a great way to go about this, and I still believe in IP rights, there's gotta be a better way. I don't know it, and I haven't seen it proposed. And extending patents lives, as discussed above, is criminal. There does need to be a reward for finding a miracle cure for something. We need, collectively, to put a value on it.

How come nobody addressed the fact that there are already, in place, lots of laws preventing the import of illegal drugs, and just because they're legal in the US, if they're under a different name somewhere else, I believe that techically they're a different drug, and thus illegal to import? This does a number on my "economics" thesis, I would say.

There's plenty in this thread that I'm going to read and digest, and some things I wish I'd previewed before I posted. (like the million dead people...) Sufficient to say that I do see many more upsides to cheap drugs for the third world than I did when I first started posting today. I guess that's one of the problems(?) with responding to a thread like this one. Lack of time for thinking about a problem more deeply than an off the cuff response.
posted by swerdloff at 12:33 AM on December 22, 2002


Ayn? Is that you, sweetie?
posted by Opus Dark at 2:09 AM on December 22, 2002


At this time of high international tension, this veto will change the way that the third-world regards the USA in:

[ ] a good way
[ ] a bad way
[ ] no change

Tick one.
posted by Hogshead at 2:46 AM on December 22, 2002


It's interesting that this discussion is taking place via the internet because some obvious analogies spring to life.

Since information is freedom, shouldn't the internet be available to those less fortunate and with nastily corrupt excuses for leadership because it's necessary? And widely available information could save lives?

I paid a lot for my computer, and pay a lot for my connection monthly, but I would hate to see it given free to North Koreans because their government doesn't believe in libraries.
posted by hama7 at 4:37 AM on December 22, 2002


?rst things ?rst, FAMINE kills most of the people in africa, asia and latin america, not any disease. world organizations should target on that.

a pharm company makes so much money that could easily sell their drugs cheaper to third world countries, besides, a drug patent is the kind of knowledge that should be available to everyone in the world, since it is based in previous discoveries, i mean, you can’t just have a new drug from “scratch”, it has been developed not by just the company itself, but by hundreds of scientists around the world which pinpoint towards the drug. and just for ethics, you just can’t be earning millions and just letting thousands of people die.

most of third world countries are subjected to the u.s. government with economical restrictions, the u.s. gov sees the poor countries like a place to look for human workforce, or a place in which they can earn serious money. they don’t see that in those countries lives human people like them. —THIS IS DEPREDATORY CAPITALISM…

and you know, you know something is wrong when you see that the life quality of most people has lowered. because is HUMILIATING to beg in the streets for a piece of bread for you and your kids; and that you’re dying because you can’t eat (if someone has been one or two days without eating, he knows what i’m talking about).

the problem is not the cheap drugs, the problem is that this u.s. administration has showed, once again, that will keep it’s predatory capitalism, which degrades human dignity to it’s lowest.
posted by trismegisto at 6:31 AM on December 22, 2002


Swerdloff - I takes courage to eat a bit 'o crow. You have my admiration. Can't your logic of 'disease mutates. so.....' be applied to many other issues, for example: the environment (at large - Global that is), and crime (pay now for schools, income supports, etc., or pay later - prisons, that is)?

Jmd82 -re: "Alas, I think this thread misses two huge points: a) especially in africa, it COMPLETEY avoids the problem of FAMINE. If we can't even get food to the poor, how in the hell will we get drugs that would be profitable to corrupt dictators to the poor. Too much incentive for the corrupt to steal drugs (as they do with food) and last time i checked, drugs do not cure hunger. b) As many ethicists agree (i'm too lazy to google right now), none of this does a lick of good untill the population is under control. If their population increases, it will only increase the need of cheap stuff (and by cheap stuff, i mean stuff at low prices) creating further dependance on us creating one big vicious cycle"

- Not a bad argument, but it has at least one major flaw I know of - increased mortality, disease, lower life expectancy, lack of health care, malnutrition, and illiteracy ALL CORRELATE WITH HIGH RATES OF CHILDBIRTH. Why? - well it's simple. No 401K accounts. Children serve, in the developing world, as "retirement accounts" (they take care of their elderly parents). But the catch is - the parents have to assume at LEAST a 50% attrition rate (death of children, that is) and so they need lots of extras.

Hama7 - that would depend, wouldn't it, on whether internet access strengthened the North Korean regime or undermined it.
posted by troutfishing at 9:03 AM on December 22, 2002


"I paid a lot for my computer, and pay a lot for my connection monthly, but I would hate to see it given free to North Koreans because their government doesn't believe in libraries."

Are you kidding? North Korea is one of the world's most dangerous hotspots. Its government keeps its people misinformed and afraid of the rest of the world, and it has nukes armed and ready to protect itself, if not to expand its borders.

Helping the citizens of North Korea get access to the wealth of information on the Internet would surely help them see how they are being lied to and abused.

That, in turn, reduces the chances of them nuking your ass.

Giving your computer to a North Korean would be an act of self-protection, not charity.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 AM on December 22, 2002


There were some protests that giving away drugs in third-world countries would lead to the smuggling of those drugs back into the profitable first-world markets.

I think that was mostly addressed, but I'm going to kick in a few remarks regardless.

First, I think most first-world citizens would go for the security of the legit, pharmacy-purchased product. I know I sure as hell wouldn't trust blackmarket drugs smuggled out of Lower Slobovia. Geezus.

Second, Canada's drug prices are, on the whole, half what is paid for the same drug in the USA. Despite this remarkable disparity, there isn't enough cross-border drug smuggling to force the US drug companies to drop prices.

Third, most pharmaceutical companies spend by far the greatest amount of money not on research, but on marketing. There will never be so much smuggling of drugs that the company goes bankrupt. The drug companies can always undercut the blackmarketers and still generate high profits.

In short, there is simply no validity to the concern that providing affordable drugs to third-world nations will cause harm to our big first-world pharmaceutical companies.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:11 AM on December 22, 2002


Finally, regarding population problems and the general state of human existence on this planet:

Populations stabilize only when a country's citizens are secure in their future. With an educated, employed citizenry with reasonable healthcare and eldercare comes a reduction in birthrates. This pattern has been demonstrated in Canada, the USA, and most of Europe; and is being demonstrated in several third-world nations that are moving towards first-world economic/social status.

Peace also seems to come only to nations with a satisfied citizenry. Fed, full, and happy, there is no need to go to war.

If we want our planet to become a peaceful utopia, we need to work toward helping all nations become successful. Should we ever be able to provide adequate food, shelter, healthcare, education, and employment or entertainment to the world's population, I believe we will have created "heaven" on earth: an end to war, and opportunity for all.

That's damn well worth trying to achieve, because the other path leads to bigger and worse wars, ultimately ending in obliteration.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:22 AM on December 22, 2002


Noble and laudable goals that only a tiny fraction of the world seem genuinely interested in. A far larger percentage would want you dead for even voicing such opinions. An even larger group would say that such things could only come to pass when their hated enemies are utterly destroyed--and would not be worth having unless others could not have them. Paradise cannot exist unless surrounded by misery.
By far the largest group would be indifferent to such ideas, being far more interested in their own day-to-day lives. And wanting to keep such focus, they would applaud the policeman who arrested you for proclaiming your activism on the street.
The day is saved by the realist who sees in Social Darwinism the answer: prosperity does not come from intended ideals, it comes only to those who create it for themselves and their posterity out of rude vested self-interest.
Great wealth is not created by those like Carl Sagan, it is created by those like Bill Gates, as repugnant as that sounds.
posted by kablam at 4:06 PM on December 22, 2002


I think that was mostly addressed, but I'm going to kick in a few remarks regardless.

First, I think most first-world citizens would go for the security of the legit, pharmacy-purchased product. I know I sure as hell wouldn't trust blackmarket drugs smuggled out of Lower Slobovia. Geezus.


There was a thread HERE just like a month ago that this is already happening. Aids drugs sent to Africa are ending up in Europe.
posted by thirteen at 9:49 PM on December 22, 2002


Five Fresh Fish - Spot on. Great summary!
posted by troutfishing at 10:40 PM on December 22, 2002


And here's what you self righteous types all missed:

My Vindication on the Exit theory.

"I don't know whether it's illegal or not, but it's right out here in the open," Ms. Gregory, 71, said. "How bad can it be?"

Not that any of you will actually read this, but if you do, I'd love to hear your opinions. "It's not a problem" you all whined. "Nobody does this" you all claimed. Your arguments are full of hot air.
posted by swerdloff at 6:57 PM on December 26, 2002


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