An Alternative to Pharmaceutical Patents

It has been previously established that the pharmaceutical industry is the only industry gaining from the patent system at all. For all other industries, the entire patent system is a balance of terror that is a net loss on the bottom line. Our Member of the European Parliament, Christian Engström, explains in numbers why the patent industry is gaining from the system: the monopoly deadweight from the patent system is filled by taxpayer money that goes right into industry coffers.

In a blog post today, MEP Engström translates the background of the Swedish Pirate Party’s stance on the patent monopoly system: gradually abolish the entire patent system, as everybody is better off without it entirely than with it in place. It’s not really a matter of “needing to replace” the patent system. When somebody is banging you repeatedly over the head with a hammer, you will ask them to stop, period — it is not a matter of replacing the hammer with a wrench. Innovation has been harmed enough by these monopolies.

It is particuarly notable that the pharma industry is exposed — using its own numbers — as better off without patents. (Pharma is the only industry where another incentive system can justifiably be needed.) Once these numbers take hold, it means that the primary industry of the entire patent system falls. And once pharma patents fall, the credibility of all other patents fall like domino pieces.

Patents are not innovation. Patents are bans on innovation, monopolizing ideas and preventing innovation and progress.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Piratpartiet Live! (@piratbloggar) (@piratbloggar)

    Falkvinge on Infopolicy: An Alternative to Pharmaceutical Patents:
    It has been previously established tha…

  2. John Joerg (@JohnJoerg) (@JohnJoerg)

    RT @Falkvinge: on #infopolicy: An Alternative to Pharmaceutical Patents

  3. Niklas

    The secound big problem with patents for pharmaceuticals is that it gives the wrong incentive.
    No pharmaceutical company is even thinking about developing cures like new antibiotics etc.. (because you only buy 1 pack and thats it).
    Instaid, they are only intressted in treatment medications, such as cholesteral reducers, lipid reducers, anti-depressants etc. Medication of which you need a refill every month untill you die or their patant runs out. ( = more money for them)

    So for a life prespective alowing patent on pharmaceticals is horrible. Since it steers medical research in the wrong direction.

    1. rutros

      This is a misunderstanding. I agree that the incentive for the research sometimes goes wrong, but this has nothing to do with the patent system. It depends on the market economy system. Without a chance to get revenue, nothing is developed. Rich people can pay – poor can´t.

      Should I die from a heart disease in order to save somebody in Africa from malaria? Is a difficult question to answer.

      1. rutros

        It is not the taxpayers money. It is a health insurance system. Sometimes the insurance company i private sometimes governmental. Do you regard car insurance money for taxpayers money to.

        Patent is the best known system to facilitate the allocation of money to risky technical ideas. This is to benefit of mankind.
        All other proposals that I have seen so far includes bureaucracy and plan economy in some form.

        I am happy that most pirate parties worldwide as well as voters realize this.

        1. Slacker

          If I’m forced by the gov’t to buy that car insurance, then yes, that’s taxpayer money. A tax is a tax, whether it goes through government coffers, or directly to some privileged business.

  4. Niklas

    Even if you are super rich, good luck when ever you get infectsd by a Hospital diseases such as Panrecistantenterococ. (no antibiotics, goverments have to go in and fund reasearch just because biomedical companies are more intressted in developing even more bloodpressure medicaction)

    If you browse throug biomedical research litrature, there are tons of different possible treatments for al possible diseases. Problem is they focus on chemicals that cant be patented (because you are alowed as an independant researcher to work with them).
    Did you for instance know that VitaminA can have a possitive effect and reduce Artherosclerosis? – no human trails. Now the research is focusing on what VitaminA dose so you can synthetise a different cemical you can patent… doesn serve anyone exept those that possibly would make a huge proffit later…

    1. rutros

      Well I am not super rich, thats why we have an insurance system to create demands.

      I fully agree with you that patent do not solve all finance allocation problem.

      New antibiotics is such an area, where the financial risk becomes to high because the drug so easy becomes inactive of the bacterias resistance. It does not pay off to invest even with patents. The society has to take the risk.

      The second observation is also relevant.. The investment cost is so high that without a patent protection, you have little chance to get your money back. The authorities is trying to solve this problem by giving market exclusivity for certain substances even without patent. Maybe the use of those artificial patents should be extended and make the system more effective.

      1. Niklas

        sure thats maybe true.. But if big pharma could get patents and make alot of money on a few drugs, i still very much duobt that the would all just “quit”.
        If the companies are forced to research and improve their products everyday, medical progress would go much further.
        And research would be spent on finding cures, not treatments. No one with profit as an intresst wants to “cure” cancer, but “treat it” is a lucrative bussines

      2. Slacker

        The financial risk is so high, because the government imposed absurdly expensive “safety” procedures for any drug that is to be legally sold. Note that before this madness started in the 60’s, pharma companies were happy to try any moderately promising substances, as it didn’t cost them much to do that.

  5. Peter Andersson

    Rick! Check this story out. A pharamacomp that was granted a monopoly on a drug risened the prise from 10 dollars to 1500 dollars:

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Morning, Peter. Yeah, I just noticed too. This goes right into the list of “see what happens when you award monopolies”.

      One also ponders if the reverse causality holds, of course. If it was profitable at $10, and a monopoly hiked the price to $1,500 — does that mean today’s drugs would be profitable as generica as well? Evidence certainly suggests they would (just look at all the ads for generic Viagra.)

      1. Rutros

        Sorry, but this has nothing to do with patents

        “In contrast, the Orphan Drug Act appears to neatly sidestep the patent system altogether, and in so doing results in the grant of far greater rights than anything associated with the patent law. While the term of exclusivity under the Act is possibly shorter that the term conferred by a patent, it is not subject to the numerous defenses available for attempting to strike down an issued patent.”

        You can abolish the patent system, but you still have this!!!
        There should not be longer monopolies than is necessary to allocate money to development.

        Of course genetics are profitable, somebody else have paid for the development

        1. Slacker

          And who mentioned specifically patents? A state enforced monopoly is a state enforced monopoly, regardless of what name they choose to call it.

  6. That "Ball" Guy

    And with the growing popularity of decentralized production (hackerspaces, and biocurious) the costs of research/development drop drastically. Most pharmaceutical R&D budgets do not go into research and development on new improved medication, but to pay lawyer’s fees and finding ways to extend the patent (e.g. Teva Pharmaceuticals’ MS modifying drug Copaxone. Sandoz laboratories has produced a generic but is prevented from taking it to test by state aggression)

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