Congress’s latest innovation seems to be “health-care reform” that will actually make America sicker. And likewise, the Trump administration’s latest proposal to reduce drug costs, outlined in a leaked draft executive order, promises to make medicines more expensive. And who better to appoint to name the fairest price for drug consumers than the drug companies that profit from them?
Perhaps the most paradoxical twist to Trump’s drug-price reform is that it purports to protect American consumers by exposing consumers in poorer countries to multinational pricing schemes. But health advocates say the reforms would only further rig the system in favor of Big Pharma, would do nothing for American patients at best, and at worst would harm even needier populations abroad.
Much of the memorandum, which calls for a multi-agency review of drug pricing, echoes longstanding demands of Big Pharma lobbyists: more “regulatory relief” for drug markets and health plans. It also targets other countries’ regulatory controls (including state-sponsored programs that are more protective and equitable toward consumers than the US system), and curtails regulations for negotiation of drug prices.
The deepest harm may be felt outside American markets. One reported proposal, according to Kaiser Health News, would ease rules on extending patents for drugs exports, to “‘provide for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights,” supposedly to ensure “that American consumers do not unfairly subsidize research and development for people throughout the globe.”
The idea that research that benefits the health of other people is somehow “unfair” to American consumers embodies the race-to-the-bottom ideology of medical profiteering. Rather than pursue pharmaceutical innovation as a communal good, drug manufacturers treat drugs as precious commodities to be hoarded at all costs, pretending to safeguard patients by fattening the revenues of pharmaceutical empires.
James Love of Knowledge Ecology International points out that Big Pharma already has enormous patent-monopoly power in many countries anyway. Other wealthy industrialized nations currently allow drug corporations generous patent-protection rights (with some challenges from universal health-care systems like Canada’s), including the ability to extend terms for patent exclusivity across dozens of European and other “developed” countries.