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[chox] Fwd: Scientists Find Way to Slash Cost of Drugs

refero relatum

----- Original Message -----

 Scientists Find Way to Slash Cost of Drugs
 By Sarah Boseley
 The Guardian UK
 Tuesday 02 January 2007

 Indian-backed approach could aid poor nations and cut NHS bills.

 Two UK-based academics have devised a way to invent new medicines and
 get them to market at a fraction of the cost charged by big drug
 companies, enabling millions in poor countries to be cured of
 infectious diseases and potentially slashing the NHS drugs bill.

 Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College,
 based at Hammersmith hospital, calls their revolutionary new model
 "ethical pharmaceuticals."

 Improvements they devise to the molecular structure of an existing,
 expensive drug turn it technically into a new medicine which is no
 longer under a 20-year patent to a multinational drug company and can
 be made and sold cheaply.

 The process has the potential to undermine the monopoly of the big drug
 companies and bring cheaper drugs not only to poor countries but back
 to the UK.

 Professor Shaunak and his colleague from the London School of Pharmacy,
 Steve Brocchini, have linked up with an Indian biotech company which
 will manufacture the first drug - for hepatitis C - if clinical trials
 in India, sponsored by the Indian government, are successful.
 Hepatitis C affects 170 million people worldwide and at least 200,000
 in the UK.

 Multinational drug companies put the cost of the research and
 development of a new drug at $800m (£408m). Professors Shaunak and
 Brocchini say the cost of theirs will be only a few million pounds.

 Imperial College will hold the patent on the hepatitis C drug to
 prevent anybody attempting to block its development. The college
 employs top patent lawyers who also work for some of the big
 pharmaceutical companies.

 Once the drugs have passed through clinical trials and have been
 licensed in India, the same data could be used to obtain a European
 licence so that they could be sold to the NHS as well.

 Professor Shaunak says it is time that the monopoly on drug invention
 and production by multinational corporations - which charge high
 prices because they need to make big profits for their shareholders -
 was broken.

 "The pharmaceutical industry has convinced us that we have to spend
 billions of pounds to invent each drug," he said. "We have spent a few
 millions. Yes, it will be a threat to the monopoly that there is."

 "I'm not only an inventor of medicines - I'm an end user. We have
 become so completely dependent on the big pharmaceutical industry to
 provide all the medicines we use."

 "Why should we be completely dependent on them when we do all the
 creative stuff in the universities? Maybe the time has come to say why
 can't somebody else do it? What we have been struck by is that once we
 have started to do it, it is not so difficult."

 The team's work on the hepatitis C drug has impeccable establishment
 credentials, supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust and help and
 advice from the Department for Trade and Industry and the Foreign and
 Commonwealth Office.

 But the professors' ethical pharmaceutical model is unlikely to find
 much favour with the multinational pharmaceutical companies, which
 already employ large teams of lawyers to defend the patents which they
 describe as the lifeblood of the industry.

 One industry insider envisaged legal challenges if the new drugs were
 not genuinely innovative. It could become "a huge intellectual
 property issue", he said.


 "Do not lose heart, we were made for these times..."
 Clarissa Pinkola Estés, from "Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled

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[English translation]
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