Wednesday, March 19, 2008

HIV...patents


On April 23, 1984, Margaret Heckler, Secretary of the Department of Health, announced the discovery of the virus that was the "probable" cause of AIDS. She also announced that within the next 6 months there would be a test for blood to determine if it contained the virus. On that same day, April 23, 1984 at the US Patent & Trademark Office two patents were filed. Patent # 4647773 called "Method of continuous production of retrovirus (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and pre-AIDS." The inventors were Gallo and Popovic with the owner of the patent being the United States Government--Department of Health. And patent #4520113, called "Serological definition of antibodies to HTLV-III in sera of patients with AIDS and pre-AIDS condition." The patent inventors were Gallo, Popovic, and Sarngadharan and it was also owned by the United States Government. These patents have portions disclaimed. This beginning seems to represent all that is so very questionable about hiv/aids policies in the medical community and with the government. No peer review was done regarding this discovery. Government announcement of a "truth" and government ownership of the blood tests to the invention done in one day. Twenty-four years later, many people accept as fact that hiv causes aids and that testing everyone for this disease is a public health policy that is based on scientific truths.
Government ownership of medical inventions, tests for diseases, seems rather strange to me. I thought government created laws. I never realized that government could be a business...indeed a business involved in determining disease? Wow...so when laws are passed that make it mandatory for pregnant women to be tested for hiv, should we consider that the government has an unbiased opinion? They own the invention to the testing. They own the original research (although the French might dispute this--it was French researchers who sent Gallo the samples he used to proclaim that hiv=aids).
What about the "discouragement" of breastfeeding for any hiv-positive woman by the US government (Department of Health). The US Government-Department of Health owns a patent called, "Method of screening for risk of cancer using human lactoferrin." (patent # 5948613) This patent was filed in 1996 and states, "Due to its bacteriocidal, antifungal, and immunoregularory activity, administerin pharmaceutical acceptable doses of lactoferrin of the present invenion could prove an effective agent to treat patinets with AIDS or patients with neutropenia." Human lactoferrin (which is what they are discussing in this patent) is a component of human milk. It will be a recombinant, a genetically engineered version of the real component. But the patent is based on studies that show what the real component does. So when we look at the US Department of Health policy on hiv/aids and breastfeeding, are we seeing scientific facts or a business decision? Are decisions made based on patent ownership or on scientific facts?
Various companies owns patents on the use of human lactoferrin in treatments for hiv/aids.
Pharming of the Netherlands owns patent # 6333311 called "Useful properties of human lactoferrin and variants thereof." It states, "Therapeutic indications for hLF [human lactoferrin] and LF variants include use in therapy or prophylaxis of infection, including local infection, large scale (bacterial) infection, blood borne infection (sepsis) as well as inflammation resulting from infection....also used to prepare or treat organ transplant recipients or other immunosuppressed individuals (e.g. AIDS patients)."
Or Snow Brand Milk Products of Japan (now owned by Nestle of Japan) who manufactures infant formula. Their patent (#5565425) filed in 1994 states, "Recently the inventors confirmed the inhibitory effect of iron-binding proteins against infection and growth of HIV .....containing LF [lactoferrin] as an effective ingredient."
What do you believe and why? Does patent ownership effect government health policies?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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