May 162021

COVID helped me to lose what trust I had remaining in government institutions. However, my faith in humanity actually grew on net, because of the outstanding success of private individuals and institutions. US Pharma created the COVID vaccine in just two days back in January of 2020! Production takes several months, but by the time it got rolling we were producing tens of millions of vaccines per month, and eventually tens of millions per week. Distribution has gone so well that basically every adult in the US that wants to be vaccinated will be by the end of May.

The US govt got in the way at every step. It wouldn’t allow challenge trials, and demanded unnecessarily long, large, and expensive trials. Pharma pays hundreds of millions per drug to gain FDA approval, when initial creation sometimes takes as little as TWO DAYS. The producers were barred from selling the vaccines at market price, instead forced to sell only directly to the govt.

And now Joe Biden wants to remove the vaccine patent protections.

Now, this won’t really change anything. The patents already aren’t being defended, and the primary production bottleneck is rare inputs, not IP restrictions. The Pharma companies are still making a nice profit. So in that respect, it’s a way for Biden to grab approval points without actually hurting the companies that saved us all.

On the other hand, it’s pure fucking treachary. These are the people and institutions that literally saved us from a world-wide pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in living memory. In response, Biden is advancing the idea that Greedy Big Pharma is behind whatever delays and setbacks have prevented us from already being clear of this, and he’ll save us by revoking their IP protections. The protections that the government granted them in the first place to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars in costs they impose, and many months of delays that killed thousands of people. To take the heroes that brought us out of this and cast them as the villains because your base has a “Kill Capitalists” proganda message is so fucking disgusting to me I have a hard time putting it into words.

Also, it throws into doubt that certainty that future patents will be protected, which will change the calculus of every corporation that has to decide whether its worth spending the millions needed to create these drugs in the first place. It imperils our future salvation, to score a few political points. It’s almost criminally short-sighted. I don’t even know where to go from here, I just had to rant. This is why I don’t vote lizards anymore.

  3 Responses to “Burn The Heroes”

  1. Don’t panic!

    From the level of agitation in your post, it seems like you may have encountered some inaccurate news sources that are trying to gin up discontent. Stay factual.

    1) the patent suspension was not extra legal, it was based on longstanding provisions of US law and the relevant companies knew this when they made their investment. This is proved in to return calculations when investment devisors are made.
    Google term “march in rights”

    2) most of the vaccine research, including a lot of the practical stuff and all the basic science was funded by the government.
    note forbes as a source, which is fairly right leaning, I’m not cherry picking here

    3) in general companies make big profits by taking rights, but the drug companies here took basically zero financial risk (though to be fair they did take some reputational risk)
    Key google terms advance purchase agreements and non contingent
    The vaccines were sold before any were produced and in fact were sold before the trials were complete. The sale agreements were not contingent on the results of the trials. If the trials had found they didn’t work, the various governments would still have been non the hook to purchase huge numbers of doses (in excess of 100 million for both US and EU). That would have been enough to ensure the relevant companies had record profits. Normally things like high returns to capital and the monopoly provided by patents are used to compensate firms for the high amount of risk the bar bringing drugs to market or launching an endeavor. When no risk is being borne, then the excess returns to compensate that risk are not required. Any company would sign up for risk free profits every time, even if they would prefer even bigger profits.

    4)Despite not taking much risk, the firms involved are doing very well financially and made great deal of money from the deal. They are not abused victims, they are sophisticated actors that made an informed investment that paid off big time and made a ton of money.
    Key google terms, record profit and name of the drug company of your choice

    Things are just fine. The system here is working as intended, government invested in lots of reach in an area of public priority and it paid off. Private industry invested a lot in building manufacturing capacity and it paid off. A major disease is being cured.

    • You make good points. I know this doesn’t change much on the ground, the Pharma companies still made/are making a ton of money, and vaccines are already being produced at the fastest possible rate. If the IP protections are lifted they’ll continue to make a lot of money, and the world won’t get any more/cheaper vaccines. Basically the only thing this action does is manipulate the optics.

      That’s the thing that irritates me, though. It’s the desire of the govt to make private companies look bad. I spent much of my youth despising private industry and wanting some sort of socialist take over, and I realize now that a lot of it was messaging like this. I mean, yeah, corps actually did do bad stuff at times. But when they are rescuing the world, I really think it’s deplorable to smear them for political points at that point.

    • I don’t know much about point 1; I’ll read the link.

      Point 2 is irrelevant. The funding agreement didn’t say “and we’ll make you waive the rights” or anything like that. Saying it was funded by the government so the government gets to control the rights is like saying that if a game goes on Kickstarter, and then later once the game is developed all the backers agree that they want the game open source, the developer has to do that. That was never part of the deal.

      3. The companies didn’t take risks; so what? Does that mean we should force extra risk on them? If you put your money in a savings account instead of the stock market, does that mean that the bank can decide to steal it because you decided *not* to take a risk?

      4. They made a lot of money because they made a vaccine for a pandemic. That doesn’t justify stealing from them.

      I’m not saying big pharma is good in general. They as a group do a lot of evil things and I’m sure if I looked I could find examples of specific evil things done by Pfizer and Moderna relatively quickly. But their moral character as companies is irrelevant. They aren’t poor abused victims in general but they are being victimized here.

      What we should do is go back in time to 2020 and make an explicit deal in advance about buying the IP off the companies if things pan out. We can’t do that. The next best option is to use eminent domain and *pay* for the IP instead of stealing it. Yes, give more money to these companies that are making a lot of money, because we are taking something of value (or, supposedly of value; again there’s the issue of it maybe not helping much. But if we don’t think it’s of value why take it?).

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