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How the drug was found? You mean discovered? This information will also be revealed in the patent (the method of sythesis).

Does method of synthesis mean manufacturing method? I didn’t know it was required to publish a manufacturing method for the drug (do they publish that instead of, or in addition to, the chemical structure?), but what I meant was how the drug was discovered, the company’s knowledge of why works, and research data in general, rather than how it is made. None of that is in a patent, is it?

I’d also expect scientists to be bound to some degree of confidentiality, but you seem to be saying that their obligations to their employer are fairly limited. Right?

So, do you recognize problems with using patents as the main economic driver of the industry? Have you thought about other ways that society could set itself up to find treatments and cures? I’m not hell-bent against patents or capitalism, I just think that often there are better ways to do things and I’m always interested in hearing proposals for better ways.

The company I work for discovered a very effective treatment for HIV a few years ago. But it had taken about 17 years (post patent filing) to develop, so had very little patent life left. It had cost billions to develop, and would never make that investment back. But they brought it out just the same, and it has saved many, many lives. Why? Because withholding it, or killing the drug, would be morally indefensible.

I have a critical thought, though. Proper analysis ignores sunk costs (though real people, even executives, often don’t) and so the question is not whether they would recoup their costs — it sounds like they couldn’t do that no matter what — but whether they would make more money by bringing out the drug or burying it. So, would you say that they reasonably expected that burying the drug would be less costly than bringing it to market? To say there was any altruism, the answer must be “yes”.

Thanks for your informative responses! I really must go eat now… :)

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