From the award-winning author of Medical Apartheid, an exposé of the rush to own and exploit the raw materials of life—including yours.
Think your body is your own to control and dispose of as you wish? Think again. The United States Patent Office has granted at least 40,000 patents on genes controlling the most basic processes of human life, and more are pending. If you undergo surgery in many hospitals you must sign away ownership rights to your excised tissues, even if they turn out to have medical and fiscal value. Life itself is rapidly becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the medical- industrial complex.
Deadly Monopolies is a powerful, disturbing, and deeply researched book that illuminates this “life patent” gold rush and its harmful, and even lethal, consequences for public health. It examines the shaky legal, ethical, and social bases for Big Pharma’s argument that such patents are necessary to protect their investments in new drugs and treatments, arguing that they instead stifle the research, competition, and innovation that can drive down costs and save lives. In opposing the commodification of the body, Harriet Washington provides a crucial human dimension to an often all-too-abstract debate.
Like the bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Deadly Monopolies reveals in shocking detail just how far the profit motive has encroached in colonizing human life and compromising medical ethics. It is sure to stir debate—and instigate change.
Medical ethicist and journalist Washington, winner of the 2008 NBCC Award for Nonfiction for Medical Apartheid, spotlights the choices made within Big Pharma, and finds that they all point to one motive: profit. Washington begins with the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which "married the university to Big Pharma created a medical-industrial complex that eventually robbed universities of their independence and seized control of medication design, costs, and even the evaluation of medication in medical journals." The industry generated record profits through such tactics as selling excised tissues without permission, patenting human genes that were found to be linked to diseases, and even conducting research on uninformed trauma victims and suspicious drug trials in third world countries. The $310 billion industry, which takes in huge profits while bankrupting first world patients and ignoring many third world diseases, often justifies its actions by claiming high research costs, but Washington finds many holes in this argument. This eye-opening investigation will make it clear why "erection on demand seems a higher priority than surviving malaria and tuberculosis." Washington concludes with suggested solutions for this ethical morass: open-access drug development, legislation, and collaborations motivated first by research, not profit.