Removing Profit From Big Pharma
Common Dreams - September 18, 2019
"The foundation for this change is already in place. Public funding has long been the bedrock of pharmaceutical research and development, with every single one of the 210 new drugs approved from 2010 to 2016 tracing their origins back to taxpayer-sponsored research."
Any American who has paid the price of a patent-protected medicine knows the core flaw in the U.S. prescription drug system: our elected leaders have handed over control to profit-hungry corporations. And for-profit corporations gonna for-profit, as the kids would say. That is especially true when the corporations are gifted with long-term monopolies on life-essential medicines, which gives them the leverage to set take-it-or-leave it prices that net billions in revenue extracted from all of us.
It doesn’t have to be this way. That is the message of an exciting new report, Medicine for All: The Case for a Public Option in the Pharmaceutical Industry, by Dana Brown, director of the Next System Project of the organization Democracy Collaborative. “We can displace corporate power over our health and lives by moving toward a democratic, publicly-owned pharmaceutical sector, designed to respond to public health needs and deliver better health outcomes at lower costs,” Brown writes.
Brown’s argument builds on our long legacy of ensuring that vital safety and health services are entrusted to institutions that are publicly accountable and publicly funded. For generations, we have been protected by policing and firefighting services that are public, not for-profit corporations that turn away residents in danger when they cannot fork over cash-on-demand. We make sure our primary and secondary schools, our critical infrastructure, and our court and election systems are accessible to all, without the price barriers that for-profit corporations naturally create. We should do the same with essential medicines. (Full disclosure: I am proud to work with Democracy Collaborative on other proposals to increase the involvement of the public sector in the pharmaceutical process, but I had no role in this report.)
The foundation for this change is already in place. Public funding has long been the bedrock of pharmaceutical research and development, with every single one of the 210 new drugs approved from 2010 to 2016 tracing their origins back to taxpayer-sponsored research. At the back end of our current process, public dollars from our Medicare and Medicaid and VA systems are the biggest purchasers of the medicines sold by pharma corporations. And in the middle, our government gifts those corporations with monopoly patents on taxpayer-discovered medicines and generous tax breaks for their business costs. As economist Dean Baker has written, a pharmaceutical system without patent mark-ups would save taxpayers more than enough to replace every penny of privately-funded R&D—several times over. ...
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