Salon agrees pharma companies were right — sort of

March 21, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Salon now agrees that the pharma companies were right about vaccines and patents – although that of course isn’t quite how Salon puts it. We’ve noted before concerning Vice how popular anticapitalist arguments are concerning vaccines and patents. Those things that have cost billions to develop should be just given away to everyone because that’s just. Possibly, in the middle of a pandemic, that’s even true.

Except the counterargument has been that anyone who can make the vaccines can gain royalty patent access because there’s a pandemic on. The insistence on the “patent waivers” is therefore driven by some other idea – anticapitalism perhaps – than the simple desire to increase the number of vaccines available to the poor parts of the world.

The pharma companies have been saying that the problem with many of the factories that would like to make vaccines is that they cannot – they cannot handle the new technology to do so. It’s this that Salon now agrees with:

Crucially, the proposed waiver says nothing about obligatory trade secret tech transfers. One of Big Pharma’s loudest counterarguments is their claim that an IP waiver will do nothing to help gets jabs in arms because even if patents are waived, generics companies won’t know how to make the vaccines. This is a valid argument, but it’s an ironic one for the industry to make, considering it is completely within the companies’ powers to make the tech transfers.

That is, it’s not the patents that are the issue at all. And yet the cry is still that the patents must be waved. It’s a straight-up anticapitalist argument – how dare the people who made something own it? – instead of it being a reasonable one about how to gain more access to vaccines.

The reason for the twists and turns of this argument is that some are simply against the idea of capitalism itself, let alone using it as a method of encouraging the production of new drugs.

Salon is in the top 100 sites for “law and government “ and gains some 7 million visits a month from being so. It’s also rather more influential than that in progressive circles. This is where many go for their ideas, such as they are.

There’s actually something rather sad about this insistence that “capitalism is bad” in the production of Covid vaccines. The two state operations, Sinopharm in China and Sputnik in Russia, have suffered their own problems. Sinopharm turns out not to be very effective, Sputnik had exactly the same problems with it not being easy to get other factories to be able to make it. Neither problem is caused by patents. Capitalist drug making, in fact, just faced and passed with flying colors the biggest test it has ever been asked to deal with.


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