Day 200: Out Of Patience With Patents

In the wake of a Bernie Sanders fair-pricing proposal to regulate pharmaceutical drug prices, a federal contract award has me thinking that his proposal doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The National Institute of Health will be granting the rights to a collection of medicines used to treat liver cancer to Shenzhen Salubris Pharmaceuticals, a Chinese company owned by Ye Chenghai, a billionaire and one of the 100 richest people in China. Pharmaceutical companies, by and large are free to set their own prices for the patented drugs they purchase.

This is what led to so much initial attention being heaped upon Martin Shkreli. Shkreli, who was just convicted of securities fraud and will likely be sentenced to prison, purchased the patent for the drug Daraprim that was originally priced at $13.50. He hiked the price to $750 per pill and became the poster child for Big Pharma greed.

But Shkreli’s move is not an uncommon one in that industry. At one point in time, I was considering signing up to be a test subject for a vaccine. During my eligibility interview with NIH, I asked my interviewer several questions afterward. They told me that after doing the test, they would shop the results around to a pharmaceutical company to see if they wanted to run with it.

Our medical developments, prices and access to care should not be in the hands of private industry. Health care should be a right and we need legislation that sets a price at which patents can be purchased back from pharmaceutical companies and made public at a regulated value. We need to massively fund the development of new medicines at our public hospitals and institutions. We need to prohibit, moving forwarding, the patenting and profiting of medicine. And to make sure everyone can get access to great care, we need single-payer health care and we need it now.

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