Soaring Spirit with Tears


Patents and Intellectual Property

Ingrid Naiman

As someone who—many decades ago—made the decision to manage the needs of my body in a 100% natural and nonviolent manner, I would like to comment on some of the conundrums of the health scene today. On the one hand, a very specific branch of medicine has, through ceaseless politicking and maneuvering, managed to set itself up as the standard against which everything else is measured and judged. On the other hand, countless others are dodging the endless attempts to marginalize—or criminalize—alternatives to mainstream medicine.

This branch of medicine, called allopathy, i.e., the curing through use of "other" or opposites, constitutes but one kind of medicine. Its unique features derive from its relationship to the germ theory of disease—and the weapons it has developed to deal with microorganisms, mainly vaccines and antibiotics. Its core premise is that disease arises from without and that it needs to be destroyed. Consistent with this view, it wages war on disease and, if I may say so, tolerates casualties at what is for me an alarming level. It is also hugely aggressive in its effort to effect compliance with its methods; and it uses all the tools at its disposal to guarantee its dominance over critics and detractors.

Despite its tactics, chiropractic medicine gained a foothold and became a recognized profession. On the heels of this success, acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine achieved in a short time what had taken the chiropractic profession much longer to accomplish. Naturopathy is licensed in some states and there is no doubt in my mind but that homeopathy, herbal medicine, energetic medicine, and many other types of healing will also establish their credibility and reach a higher level of both official and informal acceptance.

There are many points to consider with this wave of natural medicine. First, there is the issue of the premises and protocols of these systems of healing. Second, there is the issue of recognition and "medicine." Third, there is the issue of choice, insurance coverage, and most important of all outcome. In the present circumstances, there is almost no incentive to explore a product or approach to healing that is not based on the possession of intellectual property. A drug is different from a remedy in that it can be patented and awarded various monopolies for certain time periods. This intellectual property is so zealously guarded that the courts are full of lawsuits aimed at delaying the introduction of generic pharmaceuticals by prolonging the monopoly status for as little as 2-3 years. So profitable are drugs that harassment law suits are routine strategies among the warring industry giants.

In contrast, it is generally believed that herbal medicines or formulas cannot be patented. Therefore, there is little financial incentive to explore them and without this investigation, there is no basis for knowing whether or not these alternatives are in any way preferable to what is standard today. Moreover, while patents generally rely on the ability to identify a specific active agent, traditional systems of herbology rely on the synergy of many herbs to achieve the results they seek. This kind of synergy is difficult to prove using the methodologies of science, but if there were a sincere desire to know what serves the patient best, it would possible to establish the effectiveness on the basis of clinical trials and outcome.

In the present situation, a drug may be approved that has not been "field" tested at all. Only about 10% of vaccines require the sort of rigorous testing the public assumes is part of the approval process. Most vaccines are approved on the basis that the methodology is consistent with other approved vaccines. Likewise, there are many pharmaceuticals whose outcome has never been assessed in any meaningful way, others where evaluations have been published but ignored, and still others that are so ambiguous that few people understand the ramifications of the system. For instance, a genetically modified food can perhaps be patented. If this is true, then it must be different from a natural food of a similar type, but because of inconsistencies in the logic behind this process, the seed may be patented but the product of the seed is viewed in the same manner as an unregulated food.

Likewise, very strange conflicts of interest arise when a gigantic multinational corporation decides to take an interest in something like St. John's wort, an herb that has been used for thousands of years to alleviate anxiety and depression. Pharmaceutical companies want to be able to market St. John's wort in the same way as Prozac or Zoloft so they isolate a chemical and make a drug based on an herb. If something happens to suggest that the pharmaceutical product is not safe, it is not only spun off with great publicity, but the repercussions spill over into the natural foods "industry" where the new doubts about the safety and efficacy of St. John's wort are used to limit marketing of a product that is completely different, but untested.

I think what I am saying is that there is total chaos in the procedures and thinking behind these situations. An herb, in its natural form, is a whole food or supplement, not a drug. Likely as not, it possesses a number of constituents, some of which are active in resolving the problems for which the herbs have been traditionally used and others of which protect the body from harm. Moreover, if we want to get really metaphysical here, then it can be argued that the part of the herb that possesses the power to heal is the part that contains the light. This was written in Tibetan scriptures 800 years ago and researched by Russian scientists who then developed the highly interesting formula Padma 28.

Many herbalists are deeply connected to the plants they use in their formulas, and they are careful not to destroy the essence of the herbs, some even labeling their products as containing the full essential oil component of the herb or a reduced amount of essence. The primary function, if I may be so bold, of herbs is to concentrate divinity or Divine Light in such a way as to step it down for all kingdoms of nature. This is such an important statement that I wish to elaborate a bit on the ramifications. All plants need light and perhaps also water and nutrients, but each plant is specialized in anchoring a specific range of light that in turn becomes suitable food and medicine for every other species on the Planet: insects, birds, animals, and humans. In my opinion, no amount of science could improve on the scheme established by God so while it is important to continue making observations about responses to herbal remedies, the method of production should respect the light force in the herbs as well as the universality of light, for hopefully no patent will ever be awarded on Divine Energy.

In my somewhat concerned position, I am seeing a frightening scene in which toxins are being poured on our food and medicine at an alarming rate. I am seeing genetically modified crops taking over our agriculture and abhorrent schemes to restrict the availability and movement of seeds, seeds upon which our ancestors since the beginning of Time relied for survival. In the short span of a few years, science wants to supplant an ecosystem that supported life for countless eons, and it wants patents on this megalomania and a totally free hand to destroy whatever it fails to validate . . . and then we come full circle to the fact that science will only validate what it can patent, not what is there.

I channel, and what I have channeled suggests that the plant kingdom is more endangered than the bee population, than the monarch butterfly, than the peoples of Africa. There are those who have been struggling for decades to save the rain forests; those who have drawn our attention to the fact that without trees, the oxygen content of our air will drop and make it harder for humans to survive; those who have shown that this lack of oxygen favors the proliferation of microorganisms and more ill health; and those who have shown that post-World War II agricultural practices have been destroying our water and soil. I cannot add much to their voices, but I wish to say that plants render a service that totally transcends anything most of us have considered so the proper attitude towards them is reverence, not indifference or violence.

Personally, I am glad that patents for plants are difficult to obtain because it means that plants will be like the Sun that shines on everyone, regardless of wealth or power. However, I am not happy that the systems that are dominating the political mechanisms for approval lead to assumptions that what has not been through the same procedures as drugs is ipso facto inferior. There is nothing in the process that suggests anything other than that to own a patent, one must submit reasons for demanding such ownership. Where there are no patents, there are also no procedures for approval. However, this in no way implies that the product in question is not effective, merely that it is not patented.

While pharmaceutical companies thrive because of their patents, herb companies are not in any way prevented from making profits simply because they do not own patents. Moreover, I believe that among the ethical herbalists that I know, all of them are happy that they can do their small part to conserve and protect natural habitats and plant populations while harvesting some individuals to make into remedies for other species. No one that I know is interested in monopolies or patents; all prefer to cooperate with Nature rather than to compete for fleeting dominance. The economic as well as medical philosophies of most herbalists are holistic, not domineering.

For instance, the difference between an antibiotic and an immune booster is tremendous. Whereas an antibiotic is destructive, immune enhancing foods and herbs are safe. They obviously require intelligent use, but they are not dangerous and do not cause "antibiotic resistance." My proposal would be that funds are used to establish five teaching hospitals where integrative medicine is practiced. These should be in the North, South, East, West, and Center of the country. All medical personnel would be trained to understand the broader needs of patients and to learn what their colleagues in different disciplines have to offer. Patients could consider the recommendations of various practitioners and choose what they prefer by way of treatment. A staff member would be assigned to each patient to help the patient understand the choices, answer questions, and coordinate treatment. This person would also act as the patient's advocate. I suggest the following places for these new hospitals: Minnesota because it has the most liberal views on patient rights of any state; Texas because it has an informed consent law; Vermont because it is pioneering regulations that make for safer agricultural practices; Oregon or Idaho because of their liberalism; and somewhere in the great bread basket of the Midwest.

I am very serious in proposing such an investment because the public has overwhelmingly stated that it wants to incorporate "alternative" medicine into its health regimes, but the part that each person chooses is dependent on what each understands about the options and often what their doctors say about the alternatives, which is often ignorant and disparaging. Integrative medicine is the way of the future because it is what the public wants and because it will serve the purpose of bringing life back into balance where deeper healing can occur.




Poulsbo, Washington