‘Medicine Needs To Embrace Open Source’

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols from ZDNet argues that “the expensive and abusive pharmaceutical industry needs to open up to improve everyone’s health.” An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: Now, I know little about creating and testing drugs. Here’s what I do know: Open source and data produces better results than proprietary methods. In technology, the field I know best, almost every company — including open source poster-child enemy Microsoft — has embraced open source. Why? Because it works better than the short-sighted proprietary approaches. It’s not just programming that benefits from open source. Cars now run Linux under the hood. Energy and electricity transmission managers are moving to open source. Most of the movies you love are made with open-source programs. Heck, even contract law is going open source.

I’m far from the only one to conclude that open-source methods are needed to break what amounts to broken pharmaceutical research methodology and drug price gouging. Open Source Pharma, an organization devoted to building on existing initiatives to develop an alternative, comprehensive, open-source pharmaceutical system, is leading the way. Dr. Manica Balasegaram, executive director for the Access Campaign of Medecins Sans Frontieres, aka Doctors Without Borders, explained: “There is something rotten in the kingdom of biomedical R&D… That the system is inefficient is probably difficult to dispute. It works in silos, encourages a protectionist, proprietary approach, promotes duplication, multiplies failure, is costly, and importantly, is directed at markets and not at public health needs. The consequences are fatal.” Open source can revolutionize our hunt for better, more affordable medicine. It has everywhere else. It can in medicine, too. “We need to fundamentally let go of thinking that there is only one possible business model,” says Balasegaram. “We need alternatives. Open source R&D is the key.” Since the biomedical field is dominated by big companies with an iron grip on IP, Balasegaram admitted: “Promoting the concept of sharing will be tough. Sharing, however, is a difficult and somewhat scary idea to promote. It sounds suspiciously ‘radical.’ However, when one takes into account that this has been done in other areas, we need to rethink our reservations.”

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