Drug Prices Are So Insane That The NY Times Is Recommending The US Gov't Just 'Seize The Patents'
from the seems-like-maybe-we-should-fix-the-patent-system dept
Drug prices are sky high. This is not news. A bunch of incredibly dumb policy decisions have been stacked up for decades and brought us to this place where drug prices — especially for life-saving drugs — would bankrupt most people. A huge part of the problem is our patent system and how we literally grant monopolies to companies over these drugs. Combine “life saving” with “monopoly” and, uh, you don’t have to have a PhD in economics to know what happens to the price. Add into that our fucked up and convoluted hospital and insurance healthcare system, in which prices are hidden from patients, and you have a recipe for the most insanely exploitative “marketplace” ever.
The NY Times has taken notice of this and its editorial board recently put forth some partial solutions that could be done right away to ease the burden. This includes having the federal government flat-out seize patents:
Consider seizing patents. Two statutes enable the federal government to override patents on F.D.A.-approved medications and produce them at cost. The first, known as Section 1498, works as a sort of eminent domain and allows the government to override any patent if the patent holder is compensated fairly. The provision was invoked frequently in the 1950s and ?60s to obtain crucial medications at a discount. Its use waned in later decades as the drug industry?s influence over government grew.
The second statute, known as march-in rights, allows the federal government to take similar action on any product invented with government money. The United States has never used this power for a prescription drug, but a growing number of policy experts and consumer advocates are pressing the federal government to use it now, for drugs like Truvada (the only drug approved to prevent infection with H.I.V.), which the government funded and holds some patents on. Patent overrides certainly won?t work for every medication, but they have been used successfully in the past to force the drug industry to the negotiating table. Mr. Trump could send a powerful signal to drug makers if he utilized them now.
Of course, the idea that the Trump administration is going to start seizing prescription drug patents is kind of laughable. And, man, the legal battles to watch over that would be quite impressive. But, to me, it shows just how bad things have gotten that a paper like the NY Times would casually toss out having the government seize private company patents to deal with the insanity of drug pricing.
Furthermore, while the Times is correct that this could be “done now,” it seems like yet another way of treating the symptoms not the disease. Fix the fucking patent system. Fix our broken healthcare system. Do those two things and you don’t have insane drug pricing any more. And, to be fair, at least the NY Times piece does acknowledge the idea that maybe we need to “blow up the patent system and start over” when it comes to pharmaceuticals. But it labels this idea as “fantastical.” It may be “fantastical” to those with limited imaginations and focused on living under today’s crappy, broken system. But if we want to deal with the real problems, that’s one area to start.