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E-DRUG: Medicines for the needy - Patents and Costs

Subject: E-DRUG: Medicines for the needy - Patents and Costs

John Urquhart wrote:
> I suggest that you urge your government to abandon funding of health 
> research and use the money to pay for medicines for the needy, on the 
> grounds of first things first.  While you're at it, give your salary to 
> the poor, on the same principle.  
I think John has moved from Patents to me.  This is a shame because I think
that there is a time and place for everything including Patents.  I prefer
trying to find the best balance between opposing forces within a mixed
economy.  Consequently I would like to be challenged further with evidence
in support of Patents.

John has also extrapolated from what I wrote to create a simplistic
position and then attribute it to me.  However the challenge to practice
what I preach is worthwhile and deserves a response.

re medicines for the needy

As it happens the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits System PBS (which
Richard Laing has summarised accurately, see Chris W. Green Re: E-DRUG:
Costs of developing drugs) already ensures the affordablity of medicines
for all Australians.  Consequently, I am free to advocate more funding for

My concern about the PBS is that the combination of minimal financial
barriers with no effective control over misleading promotion has lead to
overuse of some drugs especially more expensive ones.   For example,
Australia has one of the highest rates of use of antibiotics.  The PBS
budget has grown at up to 17% per year in recent years.

If anyone cares to see what I have been "urging" on Australian National TV
recently a transcript is available via the MaLAM Web site "What's new"

re my salary

I work half time for MaLAM with out pay.  I work half time as a GP to
support myself, my wife, 3 young daughters, a pet mouse and 3 chickens!



Dr Peter Mansfield
Director, MaLAM

MaLAM encourages pharmaceutical companies to provide more reliable
information to assist appropriate health care.

MaLAM Headquarters
PO Box 172, Daw Pk SA 5041, Australia
phone/fax +61 8 8374 2245

[Moderators Comment: I am pleased to read Peter's response to John
Urquhart's last message. I have had a few message crticizing me for posting
the message in the first place. So I will be more cautious in the first
But the issue itself is interesting. Do patent's promote the public health?
I remember hearing a long time ago  Sir Douglas Black, the President of the
Royal College of Physcians saying that if we stopped research and just used
the drugs we had correctly the world would be a better place. This may be
seen as an extreme view but if we think of how many conditions could be
treated and are not and how many diseases are inappropriately treated I
think there is a point to the comment. Richard Laing Co-Moderator]
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