Open Source Medicine/Open collaborative medicine

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Using open-source principles for medicine may sound a little scary, but anything developed this way can be as rigorously tested as anything is currently. Actually potentially far more so, as doing it transparently will allow more 'eye-balls' to clearly see progression of the project, contribute knowledge and ideas, and provide additional sense-checking. Also much more data can be gathered and shared relating to effectiveness, problems and suggestions for improvement. This allows for much higher resolution data and feedback (and faster cycles), compared with the large pharmaceutical and medical companies of today.

Many more treatments and ideas can be explored too, compared to the commercial sector, something that many for-profit firms are unwilling to do unless they can clearly see a lucrative market for it, and only if the developmental risk is acceptable.

Unbelievably, it takes 10-15 years for a scientific discovery to result in improved patient care [1][2] (some authorities even say 20 years [3]). In other words, now in 2010, patients receive the best medical technology 1995 has to offer. This is simply not good enough, especially in this era of biochemical revolution and rapidly accelerating scientific discovery. It is imperative that society develop a quicker pipeline between scientific discovery and clinical care, to allow sick people to benefit from the recent advances in medical science. Open source medicine is this pipeline.

Drugs are now developed by competing corporations who carefully guard their research from public eyes, lest their methods be copied and they miss out the opportunity to profit financially from it. There is an alternative medical research methodology, one that is open rather than secretive, collaborative rather than competitive, and done with the aim of solving the problem at hand, rather than profiting from it. Open WetWare is a massive hub of open collaboration among biologists and biological engineers. Pink Army is a co-operative, patient-controlled organization that develops individualized drugs for treating breast cancer. The Open Source Drug Discovery Network is a large collaborative project that successfully mapped the genome of tuberculosis.

One problem with making medical research the brief of centralized corporations is that it ties healthcare to financial considerations. This inevitably creates an artificial situation of scarcity where drugs are developed only for diseases that afflict large numbers of wealthy people. Drug development for diseases of poverty, like leprosy, are not pursued because it is not financially feasible. Personalized drug development is not developed because it is not financially feasible. In the USA, 45000 people die annually because they lack health insurance [4].
Open medical research brings the potential of high-quality development of drugs for treating the 'neglected diseases'. These are diseases that occur exclusively among poor communities and go unresearched by pharmaceutical companies because it is not feasible financially to develop drugs for people who can't afford them. Open medical research also brings the possibility of developing drugs tailored to an individual genome, which would never be commercially developed because a target market of one cannot justify investing in development. Pink Army is an example of this open, individual drug development.

There is already a huge amount of open-source software already available to make the management of healthcare easier — keeping patient records, processing body-imaging information etc. This needs to be integrated over time, so that, say, the medical records program can talk to the body-scanning program.