Skip to main content

Why Punish Pharma for Making Medicine? Preserving Patent Protections and Cutting Consumer Costs

Posted by on Wednesday, June 28, 2023 in Notes, Volume 25, Volume 25, Issue 3.

Alex Wharton | 25 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 603 (2023).

The push to lower pharmaceutical drug prices has taken a stronger foothold in legislative and executive actions in recent years. With average prices rising continuously over the past decade, many consumers struggle to pay for the medications they need—insulin being the most often cited example. Accordingly, a variety of solutions have been suggested. Some solutions support reducing barriers for generic drugs to provide competition to the big brands, others push for greater regulation of manufacturers’ ability to price their drugs, and some proposals seek greater transparency to promote price negotiations, especially when compared to prices abroad. Most concerningly, however, one proposition involves restricting the patent system and curtailing patent protections offered to pharmaceutical manufacturers. Doing so would decimate pharmaceutical innovation, curbing the development of novel treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. This Note argues that this must not happen—the patent system must be left alone. The United States is the world leader in pharmaceutical innovation, carrying the bulk of associated expenses too, but this is only possible because of the incentives offered through the US patent system. Pharmaceutical companies, operating in capitalist economies, are just like any other business—existing both to help the public and to seek profits. No other incentive system can match that of current patent protections, and without a way to compensate manufacturers for the billions of dollars and years of trials to bring a new medicine to market, innovation will simply halt. It is therefore vital that the patent system be left alone when considering methods to reduce prescription drug prices. However, doing so does not preclude the success of other proposed solutions. Working with pharmaceutical manufacturers to lower front-end development costs may achieve the desired effects, but penalizing these companies and metaphorically clipping their wings will not.

PDF Download Link

Tags: , , , ,