I was shocked the other day as I walked down the sidewalks of the business district in Washington, D.C., and I saw posters plastered at bus stops and on other walls that showed a man lying on a stretcher with the big bold caption: “Patents Kill.”
The group sponsoring the ads is a public advocacy group called “Vaccinate Our World.” The posters have also gone viral on the internet. I went to the website and discovered that these folks believe that if the drug and vaccine companies would simply give their vaccines and formulas away for free or suspend their patent rights on the medical products they have invented, then millions and perhaps tens of millions of people in poor nations in Africa and Asia would be saved from COVID.
And how is this for an outrageous slur? “Murderna” is what the group calls one of the major producers and inventors of the COVID vaccine: Moderna. In politics, no good deed ever goes unpunished.
But how can a company that has invented a vaccine that has saved millions of lives in the United States and throughout the world over the past 12 months be disparaged as a murderer? If you have $50,000 in your family savings account and you don’t send it to African nations where people are dying of malnutrition, does that make you a murderer?
Here’s what the folks at Vaccinate Our World don’t seem to understand. If it weren’t for patents, we wouldn’t have many of the drugs and vaccines that save millions of lives every day—here and throughout the world, including Africa. Patents provide a financial incentive for investors to put at risk billions of dollars to discover vaccines, pain treatments, and cures for killer diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis, to cancer, to heart disease, to epilepsy.
Nearly every wonder drug of the past 30 years was invented here in the United States, and not by the taxpayer-funded National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but by PRIVATELY funded small biotechnology companies and the big pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Bayer, Moderna, and many others. Other nations have inferior patent protections, and impose price controls when new drugs are invented. So the financial incentive for innovation disappears.
Our pharmaceutical companies may not always act like angels with their pricing policies, but they certainly are not villains. The leftists who are pushing price controls and patent terminations don’t understand that the profit motive is exactly the springboard to medical breakthroughs—just as is the case in every other industry.
The most recent example of the magic of this process is Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, which was the program that created the COVID vaccines in the first place. It was one of the most successful government programs of all time—getting the vaccine invented and produced in 10 months. The New York Times and many other cynics laughed at Trump’s projections of a rapidly researched, tested, and disbursed COVID vaccine. They said it would take two or three years—at the earliest.
Operation Warp Speed wasn’t so much a government program—though there will billions of dollars spent. It was a program that relied on for-profit drug companies such as Moderna and Pfizer to produce a vaccine that would block infection and transmission of the virus. If this had been left to the NIH or other government health agencies, it’s doubtful we would have a vaccine at all.
Patents assure our drug companies that when they invent a new blockbuster drug or vaccine, they will make money on it for the life of a patent—typically between 5 and 10 years. Keep in mind: A new wonder drug often costs $500 million to $1 billion to invent and bring to market. Most of the drug therapies that are tested don’t work, so for every one that does, there are four or five that fail in trials; the one winner has to cover the costs of the multiple drugs that never make it to the market.
If good-hearted philanthropists want to save lives in Africa and get the poor around the world vaccinated, they should—and I sincerely hope they do—raise the money to buy the drugs and then distribute them to those in need. That would be quite an effective humanitarian campaign.
But a campaign to destroy patents will only ensure that future drugs and vaccines are delayed—perhaps for many years. In other words, their efforts will lead to MORE deaths, not fewer.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.