Posted by Bill Sandweg on 27 May 2019.
If you needed any further proof of the corrosive effect of unlimited corporate money in politics, look no further than the scandalous profits being made by the big drug companies. Drug companies are rolling in profits. They make these profits the old fashioned way. They make them the same way the robber barons and monopolists of the Nineteenth Century made their great profits: They gouge the public. Meanwhile, Senators and Congresspeople wring their hands and hold hearings at which they “grill” drug company executives and tell us how tough they intend to be on them. And then? And then? And then, nothing happens. Nothing happens because campaign contributions are the life’s blood of every politician who wants to be re-elected, and they all do. Pharmacy giants don’t contribute to the campaign coffers of politicians who won’t support them in keeping profits up.
We pay more for the same drugs than any other country on the planet. If this were the result of great innovation by which drug companies were bringing new and wonderful cures to us, the high prices would be worth it. That is definitely not what is happening. Instead, drug companies are buying the rights to old drugs that are still patent protected and jacking up the price. Or drug companies are taking one of their drugs that is coming off patent protection, making some minor changes and getting a new patent on what is essentially the same drug. Or the drug companies pay generic drug manufacturers to hold off on introducing a generic alternative to their big moneymakers. Or the drug companies sue the generic manufacturers and claim some sort of patent violation to slow things down. The list of dodges the drug companies use to gouge us goes on and on.
Congress has the power to get drug prices down but it won’t use it. First and foremost, it can permit Medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies. Undoubtedly at the suggestion of the drug companies, Congress has specifically prohibited Medicare from doing that.
Congress could allow importation of drugs from other countries where the governments keep the prices down. The imports could and should be overseen by the Food and Drug Administration to assure the quality and safety of the imports.
Congress could change the patent laws to keep the drug companies from applying for and receiving multiple patents on their drugs. Congress could tighten up the patent laws and assure that patents are given, as intended, only for true innovation. For essential drugs, Congress could eliminate patent protection completely so that generics could compete with the drug companies and let the market set a fair price for the drugs.
Congress could stop the drug companies from paying off generic manufacturers to keep them out of the market.
Congress could stop the drug companies from using the courts to intimidate and delay their competitors.
Congress could just say “No” to drugs and the drug companies.
Americans are dying because they can’t afford the medicines they need. The American taxpayer is footing the bill for treatment of patients who become critically ill because they could not afford their medications. Meanwhile the drug companies don’t know what to do with all the money they are making in this country.
It is time for Congress to stop the madness and get drug prices down now!