Killing the Golden Goose That Gives Us New Drugs
From a scene on the TV show West Wing about protecting pharmaceutical patents. One guy says: "Those pills cost them only 4 cents to produce." The other guy says: "That's not true. The second pill costs them 4 cents, the first pill costs them $800 million dollars."'
From an excellent editorial in today's WSJ by Cato's Roger Pilon about the Senate passing a drug reimportation bill:
Given FDA safety and efficacy standards, it takes on average 12 to 15 years and over $800 million for a company (and most are American) to develop a new drug. But only the U.S. market is free. Abroad, pharmaceutical companies must negotiate prices with socialized medical systems. As a result, foreigners usually pay far less than Americans for their patented drugs. Americans bear the lion's share of R&D costs, subsidizing socialized medical systems in the process, while foreigners are classic "free riders."
There's no question that Congress is responding here to popular will. But the long-term implications are palpable. If companies are forced by the U.S. government to continue supplying cheap drugs to countries from which they are then reimported to the U.S. -- crowding out the higher-priced domestic supply of drugs -- it's only a matter of time until profits are insufficient to support the enormous costs of R&D for future drugs. No one wants to kill that golden goose, but there it is.