Intended for healthcare professionals


Scrooge and intellectual property rights

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1279

Intellectual Property: Feudalism Redefined

Professor Stiglitz (23 Dec) observes, "the costs of
restrictions[intellectual property rights and monopolies that limit the
use of knowledge]can outweigh the benefits" but his editorial misses the
mark in his prescription for reform. Medical research prizes will do
little to bring drugs to market that will conquer diseases in developing
countries. Not when their economies have already been decimated by
policies promulgated by the Transnational Trinity(World Bank, World Trade
Organization, & International Monetary Fund), operating under the
WTO's mantra-- "least restrictive to trade." As for Big PhRMA's huge
marketing outlays at the expense of research funding, they result from the
misinterpretation of headnotes(with no legal standing)in an 1886 U.S.
Supreme Court case resulting in a new legal concept- "corporate
personhood"- giving free speech rights to all corporations and feuling the
lobbying and advertising boom.

Stiglitz refers to patenting of the human genome but does not discuss
the legal and ethical ramifications. How is it that human life forms can
be patented? This is a colossal gift to the biotechnology industry, one
that most certainly will come back to haunt future generations, reminding
me of a prescient statement by the eminent biochemist, Erwin Chargaff--
"What can be done must be done."

We are now part of a feudal system headed by corporate masters whose
employees dare not question decisions from headquarters, nor can they
reveal the conflicts of interest that, in the medical field, are a very
real threat to the public health and safety. These megamerged monsters,
along with their willing surrogates in academia and government, have
created a medical-industrial complex that has mutated into a two-headed
monster-- corporatized medicine and the systematic commodification of
human life.

Competing interests:
LHE is founder and chair of the International Science Oversight Board (pro bono),
a Special Project of the Organic Consumers Association.

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 January 2007
Lynn Howard Ehrle
Senior Biomedical Policy Analyst, Organic Consumers Association
8888 Mayflower Dr., Plymouth, MI 48170 USA