Medical Community Today, You Tomorrow?
Monday, September 20, 2010 4:16 pm | By Katerina Bricker

The medical field in New Hampshire is facing a serious crisis; the state is trying to take away their private property. People who fund the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), such as medical doctors, nurses, hospitals, and nursing homes, are plaintiffs in lawsuits against the state of New Hampshire to prevent it from raiding more than $110 million in surplus revenue from the JUA.

The state government, who has not contributed any money to the JUA, is determined to raid the fund to fill its own budget shortfalls. In early September the state commissioner, aided by Gov. John Lynch, enacted new rules for operating the JUA that would take away 25 years of vested policy holders’ rights and appoint the commissioner to run the JUA.
Are you surprised? Of course not. This has happened time and time again. States refuse to get their own fiscal house in order so they decide to take money from any source they can possibly find. So here lies the issue; the state notices the JUA and sees that it has surplus money that is being given back to the policy holders and the state wants it.
Supporters of the new rules claim they are necessary because they address the issue of the JUA’s tax-exempt status. Lynch is trying to make it so the JUA has to pay taxes and which would then allow for the surplus money to go to the state. This puts policy holders’ future investments in serious jeopardy. Last time I checked this was their money and not the states’ property.
Republican candidate for Governor, John Stephen, has come out against this proposal stating that Gov. John Lynch disrespects property rights. He also said that 86% of New Hampshire voters are against this. Today the medical community is getting their property stolen from them, will you be next?

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Would You Like a Puppy With Your Phone?
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 4:07 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

Last month, the newest development in the debate about whether broadcast radio should be required to pay performance royalties on sound recordings was the news of a grand bargain struck by RIAA and NAB to require all mobile devices carry an FM receiver in exchange for the broadcasters’ support of performance rights legislation.

Yesterday, to build the case for this ridiculous idea, NAB released the results of a survey they commissioned asking consumers if they would be in favor of having a built in radio chip in their smartphones. Not surprisingly, the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 76 percent of respondents said they would consider paying a one-time fee of 30 cents to access local FM radio stations through a receiver chip built into their mobile phones. Of course, NAB saw these results and then quickly concluded, “Consumers demand AM/FM radio on their phones and government must be the one to do it!”

I can hardly believe that anyone over at NAB actually believes such nonsense or they may not have left out the obvious follow up question (as Ars Technica aptly points out):

"Do you think that Congress should force mobile device makers to include a radio chip in every smartphone?"

I’m guessing the broadcasters wouldn’t see the same positive results.

If, in fact, there truly is a high demand, the appropriate response comes from the market. Manufacturers will have an incentive to strike a deal with broadcasters and put the chip in. In fact, this has already happened since numerous models are already available that allow for FM capabilities.

I am actually beginning to wonder if the broadcasters are capable of doing business without having the hand of the government snatching some form of property from another industry on their behalf. Which leads us back to the original debate on performance rights.

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The Real Barriers to Accessing Affordable Medicines
Monday, August 30, 2010 5:21 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

In today’s WSJ Europe, International Policy Network’s Alec van Gelder, has a great op-ed on intellectual property rights and access to medicines. In the opinion piece, he rightfully criticizes activist groups and international NGO’s who continue to promote the expropriation of patent rights through the use of compulsory licenses.

Compulsory licenses are permits granted by a government to use patents, copyrighted works or other types of intellectual property for a specific purpose, in this case to bring medicines to poorer countries in the midst of a public health crisis. While no one denies the importance of delivering safe, affordable drugs to the world’s poor, the route by which many are calling to take is paved with harmful consequences that affect the future of research and development on these critical drugs.

A great deal has been written on this site about how weak IP rights negatively affect the economy. However, beyond the detriment to the economy, weakening IPR’s also puts the public’s health and safety at risk. The medicines that patients are using today, whether patented or generic are available because of laws that encourage innovation. The use of compulsory licenses only serves to discourage the investment of billions of dollars pharmaceutical manufacturers currently put into R & D of the next generation of life-saving medicines. Additionally, countries with weak patent rules have been linked on many occasions with sub-standard or counterfeit products.

In the piece, van Gelder outlines the real barriers to acquiring affordable drugs writing:

“The real public health problems on the ground have little to do with intellectual property rights and the cost of drugs. Rather, in the world's poorest countries the sick and the dying are being failed by the lack of investment in domestic health care infrastructure. At July's African Union summit, leaders were confronted with WHO figures showing that only six member countries have met their 2001 pledge to invest 15% of their national output on health care.”

“The real global public health problem is that for every aid dollar African governments receive for health care they divert up to $1.14 of their own resources to other areas. And aid for health care more than doubled from $8 billion in 1995 to $19 billion in 2006.”

What is more, if compulsory licenses are to be issued, many factories in African countries are incapable of meeting the minimum quality standards for the medicine, increasing the risk of creating drug-resistant strains of the world’s most dangerous viruses.

Governments need to first look at its own policies that create barriers to the delivery of affordable medicines before going after “Big Pharma.”

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