Gary Taubes, author of the acclaimed book
Good Calories, Bad Calories
, has a thought-provoking revisionist
op-ed in the New York Times,
"What's Cholesterol Got to Do with It?"
, in which he argues that the medical-scientific establishment has gone down a dead end path in developing ill-conceived and ineffective therapeutic agents for heart disease, at least to the extent that it is thought to be caused by "bad" cholesterol.
He points to studies questioning the scientific verity that cholesterol is even a disease-causing factor in the first place. It seems that the medical establishment has focused wrongly on the cholesterol cargo, which is easier for doctors to measure, and overlooked the lipoprotein vehicle, which carries the cholesterol, and which might be the real bad guy.
Meanwhile the drug companies have gotten rich off their patent-protected statin drugs, which might be useless, at least for many people.
My question, not considered by Gary Taubes (there's no reason why he should here), is: to what extent has the patent regime deflected scientific research away from more promising scientific paradigms and research programs on the one hand, and from more effective medicines and alternative treatments on the other?
Just in case you can't get enough of this stuff, here's a link to
The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics.
Shouldn't patents, if anything, encourage searching for alternative treatments?
If a working method is available cheaply everywhere, an alternative method isn't necessary. If however, the working method is patented, "me-too" innovation is necessary just to compete to do the same thing. So, research into alternative treatments.
But the companies that have the money to do that innovation don't have the incentive, because they can just rake in free money from their patent monopolies.
But couldn't they rake in even more money with an additional monopoly?
One thing that comes to mind is that advertising becomes more attractive, relative to R&D, when you have a monopoly.