Right to a cure


If someone/some company invents a cure to cancer/Alzheimer’s/HIV/Huntington’s…etc., does humanity have the right to that cure? (without tax payer money funding)

  1. Can the person/company Coca-Cola the recipe and sell it at a monopolistic price?

  2. Can the person/company only treat people they want to?

  3. Can the person/company destroy the recipe without treating a single person?

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No, you never have a right to something that belongs to someone else.

  1. Yes, until the patent runs out.
  2. Yes, a company can choose who to sell their product to. There are limits on how a company can do that but there are plenty of legal ways to discriminate. Price is the main one.
  3. Yes, nobody is ever obligated to share anything with anybody.

None of that means the person/company is morally correct. It would be an awful thing if you had the capability to save people that much pain and suffering and chose not to.

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Using the verb “can” implies a legal consideration. And I agree with what snake posted.

Assuming the question is intended to be ethical/moral (“should . . .”), are we assuming that the company intends to benefit people (regardless of their profit stance)?

As for question #3, that appears to be a non-sensical question.

  • If the company isn’t intending to benefit people but maximize profit, there is little point to destroying valid work. Tax savings isn’t going to offset the costs of research.
  • If the company is intending to benefit people and subsequently destroys the recipe, that should be signaling something about what they found. (And to be honest, this would be a separate ethics question from the one posed).

One item I would say about such a company is that they have a right to recover their costs (assuming no gov’t funding).

May not be in a dollar-for-dollar fashion (with or without adjustments for inflation).

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I don’t think Coca Cola has a patent. They just lock the recipe up and never release it, so the “patent” never runs out

Well, perhaps it was just invented to benefit the inventor (someone in the family is sick and the person creates this cure).

No. Are you asking should instead? But since you didn’t I’m going to go HR bureaucrat on you and interpret the question as it was written.

Food recipes are not eligible for patents, IIRC. Trade secret, yes. KFC has that and takes great pains to limit just how many people know the full formula.

Shall we assume that this “inventor” is self-funding the work?

Yeah. And I get the whole can or should distinction. I just think if someone really discovers the cure to cancer and doesn’t disclose it, the government will literally raid their house.

this i believe could happen.

i want to believe some compensation will be paid. if that compensation is enough is up to others to decide.

Well, there’s the immortal fame. That’s worth something, eh?
I’d probably keep it to myself to avoid that while I’m living, though.

And i think that would potentially be the moral thing to do. Any investors should be compensated for sunk investments.

In my opinion, patents exist by convention to further the public good. In that way they are unlike personal property, which seems foundational to personal liberty, at least in practice and perhaps in principal.

I have a lot of opinions about this one, lol. I don’t think a company owes it to give away a cure. It’s reasonable for them to make money on a drug given the costs and risks involved in finding it.

However, what currently goes on in the specialty drug space isn’t working, in my opinion. Martin Shkreli (sp?) was the poster child but lots of companies engage in behavior that I don’t condone. Tons of examples.

Cyclophosphamide (a nitrogen mustard akin to mustard gas, just fyi) was a drug that came out in ~1960 and went generic long ago. Two of three manufacturers stopped making it, wasn’t any money in it. And that left one manufacturer, who increased the price 15% per quarter for a decade.

Look at the current landscape around Ibrance, Verzenio, and Kisqali. Three drugs that are pretty similar in terms of safety and efficacy - Kisqali may be slightly less good. Same for Neulasta and the biosimilar drugs on the market, or even Neupogen is often preferable. But what happens in these markets? Prices don’t go down. Rather, the manufacturers put pressure on physicians to use their drugs by offering incentives. In the case of Neupogen, they offered massive rebates - they literally paid doctors to prescribe more expensive drugs. Yep, that’s legal. Medical oncologists derive ~70% of their income from drug margin, on the order of $400k/year+ per physician.

So many examples. Look up Zaltrap, $11k per month for very, very little clinical benefit, and they only cut the price when hundreds of oncologists boycotted the drug very publicly in the NYT (link below, you don’t need to be a subscriber). Manufacturers used to (maybe still do, don’t know) charge more for CAR-T cell therapy in pediatric patients. It’s the same drug, but people will spend more on sick kids. Patents are supposed to last a set amount of time (12-17 years I think is typical for drugs) but they can be extended for several years with the right legal strategy.

This all happens because of how markets exist, at least in the US. Consumers are often in no position to know that a cheaper drug exists that is still safe and effective. Physicians aren’t often incentivized to reduce cost - although that is slowly changing. It’s not an Econ 101 market where information is symmetrical and barriers to entry are low. Hell, Medicare can’t even negotiate drug prices, at all, due to an act of congress.

That’s probably enough soap-boxing for one post.


How would the gov’t know if it’s not disclosed? Or are you in favor of gov’t monitoring?

And if it is disclosed, are you in favor of gov’t action to make it accessible?

What happens if there is poor documentation for replicating the cure? Torture the inventor to recover the process?

Don’t go derailing a hypothetical discussion with concrete examples.


I spent 7 years learning how the sausage gets made in specialty pharma.


Or…you know, this guy’s wife has terminal cancer, and gets cured. That’s how we know the gig is up


only takes a few powerful/rich men getting cancer for them to find a way to shake this info out of this poor guy, probably threaten to kill his wife too.

Considering 1/3 of the people will get cancer, there’s gonna be a lot of support for torturing this guy until he spits out the secret. If it’s a fake recipe then the torture will be even worse.

So . . . you’re advocating that personal liberties should be abolished?