Why pharma’s patents are a drug on the market
Senator Bernie Sanders proposes a major reform of the way we pay for prescription drugs and fund research. He’s patently right
Dean Baker guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 31 May 2011 16.27 BST
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during his filibuster speech, on 10 December 2010, against the proposed extension of Bush-era tax cuts and other measures agreed by President Obama with congressional Republicans. Photograph: Guardian screeengrab from C-Span coverage
Drugs are cheap. There are few drugs that would sell for more than $5-$10 a prescription in a free market. However, many drugs in the United States sell for hundreds of dollars per prescription and, sometimes, several thousand dollars per prescription. There is a simple reason for this fact: government-granted patent monopolies.
The government gives patent monopolies to provide an incentive for drug companies to carry through research. This is an incredibly backward and inefficient way to pay for research. It leaves us paying huge amounts of money for cheap drugs. It also often leads to bad medicine.