"Is It Time to Bust the Cipro Patent?"

By Anthony York


Salon Staff
October 22, 2001 11:30PM (UTC)

Read the story.

So now we're thinking about breaking the patent of Cipro so that we can stockpile the stuff, even though we know full well that there are plenty of antibiotics that work just as well, but whose patents have expired. If I've been infected with anthrax, I'd much rather be taking penicillin than Cipro. Sure, it's not some "magic drug," but it still works, and I seem to remember that the side effects of these drugs were not as scary as those of Cipro.

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If we're stockpiling Cipro instead of penicillin and tetracycline because Americans have convinced themselves that Cipro is the magic drug, we're wasting a lot of money due to irrational beliefs. When you've got a problem with a biological agent, the last thing you need is for the government to make decisions based on irrational belief instead of science. Unfortunately, many Americans, even those who are educated, don't even understand the difference between a virus and a bacterium -- see Maureen Dowd referring to the "deadly anthrax virus" if you doubt that. It's stupid to break the patent for Cipro and pay out all that royalty compensation when there are plenty of other drugs that are just as effective and old enough not to be constrained by patents.

-- Katherine Guild

Jamie Love offers some really weak arguments for breaking the Cipro patent. Several ad hominem attacks clothed in "Dammit, I'm outraged, Dammit" language.

The central premise is that Thompson favors Pharma. That's not a bad thing. The strength of U.S. patent law has driven this country to be the world leader in technology and innovation. If the administration backs off strict patent enforcement, then world medicine will come to resemble Cuba. No new medicines for 60 years and counting.

Thanks Salon, for printing these arguments in their unmodified and quite pathetic form.

-- Tobi

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Your article on the Cipro patent quotes Love as stating that 28 U.S.C. section 1498 "clearly states you can't sue [the] U.S. government" for patent infringement. Yet the text of the statute clearly states that you can; it simply limits the remedies. Such a glaring mistake on such a basic and obvious issue casts doubt on Love's credibility.

It does not help that Salon chose to link to a Google search on the statute, when it could easily have chosen to link to the statutory text. Is Salon that afraid of giving readers the information needed to make up their own minds?

-- David Edmondson

The 4th Amendment states:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

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Unfortunately for Mr. Love there is not a terrorism/anthrax/AIDS exemption to be found. Cipro is an invention of Bayer, Inc., that they have patented, and they thus have exclusive right to produce and sell it as they wish.

I'd like to note also the famous Steel Seizure case before the Supreme Court in the 1950s, where President Truman took possession of the steel mills to insure production during the Korean War in the face of possible labor strikes. Justice Hugo Black writing for the majority clarified the fact that by seizing the mills, regardless of purpose, Truman had essentially sought to become a law unto himself, curtailing the property rights of the mills' owners at his discretion. Black concluded that since under the Constitution only the Congress may make laws, and that Congress was clearly bound under the 4th Amendment to refrain from such a wanton act, Truman's seizure of these companies' property was beyond his constitutional authority.

Now, Truman was facing a possible drop in steel production during an all-out war. We're talking about a couple dozen cases of anthrax, of which only one person has died, accompanied by a lot of needless, media-hyped hysteria. Our current stocks of Cipro are sufficient to treat all but the most widespread of epidemics, and Bayer is quickly tripling capacity to respond to demand. Something tells me the Supreme Court would beg to differ with Mr. Love in regard to what the president has the right to take from this law-abiding, innovative company.

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-- Gregory Dyas

Implicit in Anthony York's piece on Cipro patents is the idea that Cipro is in some way the only medication that can treat anthrax. That's a false assumption. Anthrax, particularly the strains discovered recently across the country, responds well to many types of antibiotics -- many of which have generic versions available.

Casting the Cipro patent fight as an attempt to cripple the American public's ability to medicate itself in the face of an anthrax threat is flat out wrong, irresponsible, and lacking any foundation in fact. I find it to be a mere political game by Chuck Schumer and Jamie Love to further their own political concerns.

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Pay attention to the facts and stop turning Salon into a hysterical source of inflamed rhetoric that serves mainly to terrify in order to boost readership.

-- Andrew Robinson


Salon Staff

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