Canada's best weapon in a US trade-war: invalidating US pharma patents

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/17/the-pharma-wars.html

12 Likes

I know that this will cause major havoc in the short term, but since it’s a just and appropriate response to someone who refuses to negotiate in good faith with a long-standing partner and ally I say:

41 Likes

I do not envy the task of the next half dozen presidents that are going to have to repair US relationships around the world, the damage is going to be staggering.

BTW just to double-check, it’s still technically illegal for US citizens to buy scripts from canadian pharmacies right? You’d think with all the “freedom to” bills that the republicans pass, that they’d pass one for “freedom to buy scripts from anywhere you want”.

My only fear with the patent invalidation war is that China and India are pretty much going to win that war, not Canada and then who knows the source or quality of the next pill you buy. I stopped getting scripts from walmart because it dawned on me that with their equate-brand “if we could make/source it cheaper and still legally sell it we would” attitude, probably carries over to their pharmacy generics too.

22 Likes

I am not sure what havoc it will really cause.

It will hurt the bottom lines of the large pharma companies, but is that really havoc?

For the most part, I can see it meaning better access to medications for Canadians, those lucky enough to live near the border and every country that is happy to purchase generic from Canada.

16 Likes

To be fair, the Canadian tariffs are targeted: Not just mirroring the US steel and aluminum tariffs, but pin-pointing industries where Canadian manufacturers can move into gaps opened up without hurting consumers. Also political targets. (I think everyone is targeting Harleys and Jack Daniels.)

16 Likes

In the short term it will escalate the trade dispute. Normally I’d be against that, but these are not normal times.

16 Likes

Fighting asymmetrically? But that’s terrorism!
Time to dust off War Plan Red:

1 Like

I hate this, but I don’t blame the Canadians.

6 Likes

Even Canada did that and then we all went up there to get our drugs, then we would have to build a wall along the Canadian border. Yet still people would worry about all the illegal Canadadians and still re-elect Trump.

1 Like

I don’t blame Americans, other than the ones who elected Trump.

20 Likes

Especially since Donny Two Scoops has just backed off his promise of lowering drug prices. This will be beautiful. And I will be going to Canada with a letter from my doctor and a list of meds i need a year’s worth of.

15 Likes

Lets not jump to the nuclear option just yet. The Canadian tariffs haven’t kicked in yet; when they do there will be hell to pay. They are wicked clever, very narrowly targeting specific industries that will cause specific selected congress critters a great deal of highly localized pain, while leaving most Americans wondering what the big deal about pickles, yogurt & lawnmowers (Paul Ryan will know), or bourbon (Mitch McConnel). They also target states that Trump barely squeaked through: orange juice (Florida), chocolate (Pennsylvania).

Let the Chinese and Europeans target the high profile stuff. Canadians know how the US system works, and will make sure that the individuals responsible will feel some highly specific and personalized pain.

In any case I rather doubt Canada actually has to do anything to get the Pharma lobbyists working the phones, they no doubt already are now that the idea has been floated. They know that that border ain’t fence-able, and I’m sure they’re having nightmares of tour buses full of American seniors (highly Republican voters btw) headed north once again for some tasty cheap meds.

12 Likes

Invalidating patents is an interesting concept and has one other thing going for it.

Tariffs are essentially fining your own people - after all, they’re the ones paying the tariff on the goods. It really is a form of damaging the citizenry in the hope of damaging another.

The seizing of patent rights, on the other hand, only punishes American companies.

The downside is that such a policy might truly ignite US retaliation.

Any Canadian who forgets that our economy survives only at the whim of US policy is courting disaster. In the past, we’ve been able to rely on a certain level of rationality in US policy that is not necessarily present today.

Thus I am not certain it’s necessarily wise to use all the weapons at our disposal.

8 Likes

19 Likes

Winter is coming…

4 Likes

As a matter of strategy, I’m hoping it’s enough that the idea is in people’s minds. They don’t need to be attacked, they just need to know how vulnerable their jewels are.

5 Likes

Use, no. Seriously threaten to use, absolutely.

If your long-time partner suddenly starts dealing in bad faith (in this case a new executive posturing for his moron supporters) then these kinds of threats aimed at the partner’s more enlightened or at least more self-interested stakeholders become appropriate. “Your boss keeps saying it’s a bad deal and threatening to trash it? Ok, let’s see how you like NO deal. We’re thinking of giving you a taste by starting with your unit…”

As @rob_bray notes above, Canada is working it smart, threatening to target Il Douche’s enablers in Congress, the GOP in swing states, and now the powerful pharma lobby. I would not be surprised to find that Canada is working closely with the EU in this regard, having already established a relationship and commitment to the international order their own trade deal. Together they might be able to get the (relatively speaking) grown-ups in the room to overrule Il Douche, Peter Navarro, and the other America First fantasists and brain-dead protectionists.

China will also have to play a part in this outcome, which is bigger cause for worry. They hold a lot of U.S. debt and if a reasonable solution isn’t reached then starting to call it in is their nuclear option. Even threatening that would do major damage to both countries, so for the moment they’re not doing that.

Dolt-45 still thinks this can be negotiated like a simple all-or-nothing real estate deal where his usual empty threats and bluster can work. He’s up against people who not only understand that it isn’t that kind of deal but also know how to work all the angles.

17 Likes

I mean … you would think that they could just start selling Kinder Surprise to US citizens and make millions.

12 Likes

Giving a Kinder Surprise to a certain greedy and impatient overgrown American child might invalidate the need for impeachment.

6 Likes

I think this was more a factor a couple generations ago than it is now. Given the increased ability to move goods around the world, the increase in the number of countries to buy or sell goods, and the increase in intellectual property goods, trade with the rest of the world is very much an option. Notably we’ve been signing trade agreements around the world the last few years.

Which isn’t to say a trade war with the U.S. won’t hurt, it definitely will, but it is eminently more survivable than a generation ago and we won’t be alone. Trump seems intent on attacking trade with most of the western world and China.

6 Likes