China Goes Where Obamacare Refused to Tread: Takes on Big Pharma on High Priced Drugs

Emerging economies are increasingly flexing their muscles over stratospherically-priced life-saving drugs. And before the Big Pharma defenders start caviling about how the high cost of drug development is squeezing profits, it’s hard to be sympathetic. First, the Federal government pays for a staggering amount of drug research (it’s hard to get solid numbers, since the National Institutes of Health is the biggest but not sole funder, but the latest estimate I saw was over 30% of the total). Second, pharmaceutical companies have not done much truly new drug development in a while. Well over 80% of the so-called “new drug applications” are for extensions or reformulations (eg, a delayed release version) of an existing drug. Third, Big Pharma spends more on marketing than on R&D.

The move by China follows targeted measures by Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and most recently India to use “compulsory licenses” to make their own generic versions of patented drugs. From Reuters (hat tip reader Joel B):

The amended Chinese patent law allows Beijing to issue compulsory licenses to eligible companies to produce generic versions of patented drugs during state emergencies, or unusual circumstances, or in the interests of the public.

For “reasons of public health”, eligible drug makers can also ask to export these medicines to other countries, including members of the World Trade Organisation.

The intriguing part of this is that this Chinese initiative is completely kosher under WTO rules when life-saving medicines are too costly. Given the high prices put on certain AIDS and cancer drugs in dollar terms, they’re the perfect targets for an action like this. India gave a compulsory license for the manufacture of Nexavar which is used to treat kidney and liver cancers. China appears to be using the compulsory license threat to improve its bargaining leverage for some of the newer HIV drugs, such at Gilead’s tenofovir. China was excluded from a deal with a group of nations to buy tenofovir by paying cost plus a small royalty. Gilead has offered more concessions after the media leaked that China was considering implementing compulsory licensing.

Given that China has repeatedly shown it does not have a lot of respect for intellectual property, and it already makes many active pharmaceutical ingredients, one also has to wonder whether this program will serve, intentionally or by accident, to embolden companies that already make the ingredients to start selling bootleg drugs on the side. The US and most other advanced economies have strict manufacturing restrictions on “pharmaceutical grade” products. The fear mongering around generics is that they aren’t as good as the version made by the patent-holder; that’s bunk if you have sufficiently tough production oversight. But this may not wind up being the case in China (note that we do have drug quality problems in the US, but that’s due to problems with distribution, namely, that certain crooked distributors will repackage drugs, remarking expired ones to look current, or low dose as higher dose). And it is not hard to imagine that you’d see these drugs marketed broadly, not just in China. The flip side is China has a tendency to deal harshly with people who produce PR disasters for the government, and ineffective or dangerous drugs would fall into that category. So I’d expect Big Pharma to be more at risk than Chinese consumers.

It isn’t clear whether this move could help US consumers. Obamacare prohibits drug reimportation, and that provision was targeted at reimportation from Canada. In any event, Chinese generics would not be reimports (expect Big Pharma to try to get this redefined pronto). While it would seem awfully brave to buy drugs from unknown and potentially fly-by-night foreign manufactures, anyone who is sick and is having trouble paying for the US version would be almost certain to give a foreign version a try if they thought they had a reliable source. Even so, the loss of foreign buyers (more likely, fantasy foreign buyers, since people who can’t afford the medicines were not potential customers) is likely to make the drugmakers hold even more firmly to their extortionate pricing for the customers (or their insurers) who can afford it.

Nevertheless, this move is a shot across the bow of pharmaceutical companies. The odds favor them reacting the way Detroit did to the threat of Japanese selling small, fuel-efficient cars: to deny the severity of the challenge and over-rely on lobbying as the solution.

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  1. rotter

    Something in the phrase “refused to tread” implies that “obamacare” had as one of its goals, the desire to hold down the cost of drugs. obamacare is in every way, including in its intent, a massive theft from the “99%”, by the “1%”..obamacare(and i have a big problem with the use of “care” in this instance) is more of an expression of an ideology than it is a policy in the form of a law..the idea is to force those who already have nothing, becasue they cant afford to have anything, to begin to pay out the profits to the owners of the parasitic american health care industry, so the govt has to pay less…this is a compeltely dishonest concept because, while it may be possible to force the poor to hand over money to the rich, the rich will continue to steal from the govt in ever increasing amounts,anyway.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, you are projecting. “Refused to tread” simply means it chose not to go there. The original expression is “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. Angels can go wherever they damned well please. Similarly, Obama clearly could have taken on Big Pharma but chose not to.

      1. TK421

        Exactly. Obama laid down before pharma in exchange for them not working against him. Then the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can give as much anonymous money to campaigns as they want. Oops!

      2. rotter

        Sorry, i wasnt trying to accuse the author of being soft on obamacare, i just cant resist speaking out against it whenever it comes up and this provided the context. that bill is to obama’s domestic agenda what claiming the right to kill anyone, anwhere in the world, at any time is to foreign policy. each is the representative, “signature” obama policy.

      3. Pepe

        If by “chose not to”, you mean: cut a back room deal with Pharma and was paid a few million for TV spots to support the “plan”.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Obama “refused to tread” because “feared to tread” and he’s the antithesis of an angel. The cost of pharmaceuticals went stratospheric with the “financialization” of BigPharma via Medicare Part C. Once the “middleman” steps in for the spoils, Americans care not how much “asset inflation” is in the price of pharmaceuticals or of “health care.” Part C is just one more racket ringing in the 99% suckers to pay protection money, thanks to the Executive Enforcer. It’s a racket. Bring RICO.

  2. psychohistorian

    Think about the cost to the overall system that this bullshit dance between manufactures and countries goes on.

    Why can’t we develop a social system that facilitates innovation and advancement but does not let any become monopolies by making them part of core technologies provided as utilities? Sunset provisions and/or innovation incentives would need to be tied to any core technologies, unlike the institutionalization excess we have now.

    Of course these thoughts exist in a world that is built around public commons for the 99% instead of the class based economic slavery on our current event horizon for many.

  3. Maju

    It must be done: companies can only be allowed to exist (and make a profit) for as long as they serve the public interest. Not a minute longer.

  4. Elliot

    I like it for the pressure it will put on US Pharma… but thinking of the thousands of animals that died here from melamine poisoning due to Chinese adulteration, I’d want much better oversight. I think there was some ersatz toothpaste too that was recalled, similar story.

    And generics are not exactly the same as but cheaper, they are “substantially the same as” which can lead to problems when the ingredient subbed out is ineffective for YOUR problem (or dangerous for your problem). (Though that’s probably another case for reform of patent laws.)

    Still, this is encouraging, and makes sense to appropriate life-saving technology for life-saving, vs simply profit taking.

    1. Heretic

      Finding honest and competent regulators and enforcers is problematic in China. Nonetheless their actions are to be applauded… There is no reason why the needs of the nation should be subordinate to an industry.

      China needs to respect market forces; obviously if net profitability is low while cost and and risk is high, medical innovation would be hampered. However can modify the situation by providing generous support for R&D of new drugs and human health issues and biology and information dissemination and collaboration, and drug manufacturing operations ( these are the major societal benefit and value added activity of a pharmaceutical companies. )

  5. Conscience of a Conservative

    Well with actions like this, we can say good bye to a new pipe-line of better life saving drugs.

    1. Heretic

      The is lots of money flowing toward the health industry, but lack of foresight by the nation has resulted in poor management and use of the money.)

      The medical insurance industry provides zero net value for society.
      Medical coverage should be socialized and the need for insurance would be reduced to zero. The large revenues of medical insurance should be diverted to more medical research and some investigative ability to prevent fraud.

      There is more than 40% of revenue dedicated to ‘sales and management expenses’. WTF is this for ???? And note, this is after the operating expenses to produce and manage production and quality of drugs. Why are there sales incentives presented to Doctors and pharmacies??? Whatever are the market forces and nonmarket forced that drive management to allocate so much money for themselves and do much toward a sales force should be investigated and addressed with good government policy and enforcement. Spending money on marketing drugs in an abomination; drug companies should focus on solving human needs, not manufacturing human demand.

      A government should never allow critical needs industry to operate on the basis on maximizing shareholder value.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Don’t forget Michelle Obama’s connection with BigMed/Pharma in Chi. It’s a racket. Bring RICO. “J’accuse.”

  6. overpopover

    First of all, R&D for new drugs IS very expensive. That the government (i.e. taxpayers) pay a large percentage of that does not change the basics.
    Second, going from basic R&D to a salable drug is also very expensive…and the drug companies pay most of that.
    Third, no marketing, no profits, no drugs. It’s true that modern society is entirely too dependent on drugs but its also true that most of the world’s have-nots are fighting to become dependent. That’s what this article is about.
    Finally, this article is an attempt to justify theft. Those who didn’t develop the drug want it even though they can’t pay for it…so they steal it. All sorts of rational izations are given. None are worth a shit.

    1. F. Beard

      Finally, this article is an attempt to justify theft. overpower

      Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; Proverbs 6:30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      But how much of the pharmaceutical industry was built with theft to be rich via loans from the counterfeiting cartel, the banks?

      A long time ago, it was decided that those with capital, including human talent and drive, would be allowed to “borrow” purchasing power from the rest of the population in exchange for creating new and better products for the common good.

    2. Lee

      Speaking of marketing, there is also the high cost of training up all those pretty, peppy former cheer leaders and wannabe models to be drug reps. If only this were a joke.

      1. overpopover

        That’s certainly true for lots of people…but that’s not the point. Do you truly want a society in which individual needs justify any actions? If someone needs a kidney do you want them to have the right to go out and take one? Should need obviate the obligation to pay, to give something of equal value in return?
        And what about very strong wants? Do they become needs? Should a child molester have the right to satisfy his needs?
        You lefties are truly full of shit.

        1. F. Beard

          Should someone be allowed to steal my purchasing power because a bank thinks he/she is “credit-worthy?”

          Fascists started the stealing and the stealing should end with them first.

          You don’t think the Left came about for nothing, do you?

          1. overpopover

            Your argument on credit-worthiness makes no sense. Banks must make judgments on who to invest in and those judgments will always be imperfect. The marketplace is cruel but it is more realistic than any other organization. I’m not arguing that its perfect, that it is not subject to manias and manipulation.
            Human beings steal if they think they can get away with it. Most human beings. And thieves are highly rewarded if they are successful. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and expose them if we can…or cease calling their actions by their rightful names.
            The Left came about because the losers were jealous, are jealous.

          2. F. Beard

            Banks must make judgments on who to invest in and those judgments will always be imperfect. overpopover

            That’s not the point. In banking “loans create deposits.” But where does the purchasing power for the new deposits come from? ans: It comes from all other money holders by diluting their savings, including and especially from the poor since they are normally considered less “credit-worthy.”

          3. overpopover

            Yes, money is manipulated and manipulation is a form of theft. The fractional-reserve banking system allows bankers to do it. Central banks allow nations to do it. Floating exchange rates allow it in international transactions. Krugman loves the last two…although he’s too dishonest to admit theft.
            But an alternate system – the gold standard – was tried which attempted to restrict manipulation. It was far, far worse for the average man.
            The problem is unsolved.

          4. F. Beard

            Yes, the gold standard is far worse and is fascist too. However, I think the problem was solved nearly 2000 years – coexisting government and private money supplies per Matthew 22:16-22 (“Render to Caesar …”). The banks should have absolutely no support from government nor for its part should government money be legal tender for private debts.

      1. overpopover

        So this is a lefty site and anyone who doesn’t agree with the lefty point of view shouldn’t be posting here? What kind of position is that?

        Dull moron.

        1. skippy

          Ummm…. its the no sacred cow site.

          Skippy… Btw how is life living as a – point of reference – on a 2 dimensional scale in a 3 dimensional world thats constantly moving to new knowledge event horizons… doing ya.

          “Dull moron.”… overpopover. Alas your edges are sharp, but, only wafer thin. Ah… the depths a micron can encompass!

          1. skippy

            Still the point stands. This is not a lefty blog.

            Skippy… Polemic assertions are a dead end.

        2. ambrit

          Dear overpopover;
          The resort to shameless and juvenile ad hominem attacks in comments is a general indicator of Trollery. Not everyone stays shiney pure or wallows perpetually in the mire, but trends are trends. Stick to your arguments, but don’t expect instant beatification for the ‘transcendent’ nature of your pontifications. Most of us here, (do notice the subtle self-agrandisement hidden within that phrase) have had that horrible “Oh s—! Do I really come across that stupid?” moment after someone calls us out on some inanity or mistake. You have to learn some humility to ‘hang out’ here or, I dare say, any other ‘serious’ blog. If you can’t do that, why then, you usually slink off to join some ‘true believer’ community appended to one of the mainstream ideological outfits, Left or Right, it really makes no difference.
          I’ll second skippy above and attest that this is no Lefty blog. Spend some time reading the comments section. You’ll soon see that this site is not Leftist, nor Rightist, but, for want of a better word, Objectivist.
          Keep up the reasoned arguments. Leave the ad hominems at home.

          1. overpopover

            You stick to the reasoned arguments. I’ll include the passion. Plus, your criticism is selective and hypocritical. What you don’t like is ad-hominems applied to those holding your views.

            You are completely blind if you think this isn’t a lefty blog. How much support do you find here for the positions of George Bush or Ronald Reagan? For those of Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan? For laissez-faire economics and the interests of the 1%? For Israel rather than the Palestinians? I’d venture to say that most who post here – including Yves Smith – have never even considered supporting any of those positions.

    3. Heretic

      Let’s address the issue of stealing head-on. How much benefit have Pharma companies reviewed from the United States and Western Europe?

      A) highly educated workforce of which basic education is free and state base higher education is still decent bu subsidized (or was subsidized). Pharma companies are reaping the benefit from this right now, even as the oat to educate these men and women were
      Born by society many years earlier.

      B) medical research money and research intiitiatives that are fostered and paid for via various government agencies, military research, and university research .

      C) FDA regulation… Although this is painful, this is what protects the integritty of the Entire Industry… Without this the uptake of new drugs would be very slow

      D) patent protection… No need to explore

      E) Supply Chain quality enforcement via contracts and courts…
      Without this the reliability of the industry would be questionable…. Chemical manufacturers must respect both the drug company and the government. The crooked are jailed and removed from th system, protecting the culture of product safety for the entire industry. I know tha in India and China, people have reservations concerning the safety of their Medecine

      Could new medicines be developed in lawless, countries like Afghanistan or Iraq? Even rapidly industrializing countries do not produce much breakthrough innovation.

      So… Yes pharma companies benefit countries, best western nations provide tremendous direc and indirect benefits to Pharma companies. Huge executive bonuses, sales bonuses, large dividend payout ratios are an insult to the nation that the pharma companies reside .

  7. Pat

    Not long ago I checked on the prices for a “biologic” prescription drug (biologics are supposedly the most difficult to manufacture and store). The price in US was about 14-16k, 4-5k in India, and 1.2k in China for a year’s supply. Yes, that’s right – the price was 10-14 times higher in the US! And that’s for a mid-level priced drug – what do you think the mark-up is for the really expensive drugs, like Avastin (a cancer drug that barely does anything), Nexavar, Hercetin etc., which run from 50-100k per year?
    Drug prices are a complete and total rip-off.

    1. Neil

      The biggest “cost” for a newly launched, patented drug in the USA is the fact that the development costs are rolled into the price. The reason why the development costs are so high is because consumers in the USA expect the highest quality drugs (i.e. safety and efficacy) and hence the pharmaceutical industry is the most regulated in the world. This results in huge development costs, like $1billion/drug.

      The Chinese only want to pay for the cost of manufacture. That’s fine, but please, call it what it is: a free ride. It’s not “brave”, it’s narcissistic.

      1. Maju

        Are you talking of medicines (a basic need) or golf courses (a luxury item). Effective medicines should be easily accessible to all at no or nearly no cost: they are a social issue not an economy issue. Same for water, housing…

        1. overpopover

          Medicines, houses, clean water delivery, etc. all require the expenditure of time, effort, and capital by people who want to be compensated.
          If you disagree then I have to wonder how much you demand for your services. Do you have any to offer? Do you share everything you have beyond the bare necessities? If you’re like most liberals you demand sacrifice and charity only from those who have more than you.

          1. ambrit

            Dear overpopover;
            Oh my. There you go again. Sure, everyone wants to be compensated for their ‘work.’ The questions are, first, what is the nature of ‘work,’ and second, just how much is enough?
            We can, and often do, have lively debates about both subjects.
            (I’m firmly keeping my tongue in my cheek here. Too many sarcasms and lampoons are popping into my mind just now.)

          2. overpopover

            Your tongue may be firmly in cheek but your shit is showing…and it stinks. Do you really think that I – and everyone else – can’t see that you’re speaking down to me? That you firmly believe that I am an ignorant child while you are a reasonable, tolerant adult gently, but firmly, correcting me? Your “manners” are a pathetic veneer.

            There’s nothing mysterious about work, especially when it comes to researching, developing, and marketing drugs. Only a “lefty intellectual” would be so arch and pretentious as to think there is. Nor is there much to discuss about how much is enough. In human affairs only the individual is qualified to say how much is enough for him or her. Others are making judgments based on notions of “fairness” which boil down, most of the time, to jealosy.

          3. reslez

            Wow, you certainly won that argument. Looks like someone needs to recall overpopover for toilet training.

            Obviously you would have zero problems if the water or electric company decided to charge $50,000 per month. Who cares if the cost of their inputs is far less, or if the price increase directly leads to the deaths of other people? We wouldn’t want to judge anyone based on arbitrary “notions of fairness”.

            The rest of us have no problem telling moral right from moral wrong, nor do we prize greed over all other human values.

          4. overpopover

            Who is “the rest of us” you so glibly refer to? You really ought to get out more often. Also, jealous rage can hardly be ignored. It’s one of humanity’s most powerful emotions.

          5. Maju

            Nobody is saying that workers must not be paid, including engineering and managerial workers. It’s making profit of it what I question.

          6. overpopover

            That’s way too broad. Nobody, not even Allan Greenspan, can deny that Wall St. is out of control and has become little more than a vast market for stock fraud and that upper management of far too many companies is playing the same game, but painting all profit with that brush is completely wrong.

            Capital has great value. It is accumulated with great effort and lent out at great risk so it so those who possess it deserve great reward. Well run companies plow much of their profit into new and better products and new markets…which benefits all their customers. The people who run such companies, and who invest in them, are as deserving as their workers. More so, since workers wouldn’t have jobs without them.

    2. Neil

      Contrast this with what happens in countries with government run health care schemes, like Australia with Medicare and the PBS. My (admittedly amateur) understanding of this policy is that it gives the Australian government leverage to negotiate the best deals with drug companies as they are essentially negotiating for 20milion+ people. Then they can subsidize the cost on top of that discount. Hence it appears drugs are cheaper in Australia than the USA, but it is really a mixture of “buying in bulk” discount and government subsidies. Point is they are working within the current system and rewarding innovation, rather than getting a free ride (i.e. stealing) and stifling it, like the Chinese policy. I mean, just imagine if the Chinese government used the PBS-like approach, with the purchasing power of a billion people!

      Mind you I despair that this would ever work in the USA because morons like Palin would call the PBS a “death panel”….

      1. ambrit

        Dear Neil;
        Too true, as if the insurance companies haven’t already set up their own “death panels” to dole out their benefits in ways that favour their own narrow self interests. (I would be interested to see an un-redacted ‘donors’ list for Mz. Palins’ “Public Presence” fund.)

  8. Melody

    The latest/greatest issue is sometimes a false argument. Innovation often refers only to ‘different’ rather than ‘better.’ Currently, my Type 1 diabetic husband (who favors natural animal insulin vs. genetically-engineered synthetic insulin) can import a vial from Canada at a cost of $130/vial. He can import from UK, at a cost of ~$80/vial; or he can import from Argentina at a cost of $13/vial. (Shipping costs are add-ons and can increase the cost significantly. Additionally, complying with FDA/USDA import requirements is burdensome, irregular and problematic.)

    When synthetic insulin hit the market it was amid claims of lower cost and being ‘just like the human body makes.’ As each new synthetic entrant loses patent protection, the manufacturer(s) ‘manufacture’ a story about the inadequacies of the formerly-protected product, while assuring the insulin-dependent that the new latest/greatest will solve their management issues.

    When husband was diagnosed, he could buy a bottle of insulin over-the-counter for under $10 (a month’s supply). Syringes added another $5/month. Today’s ‘management’ incorporates frequent monitoring ($1/strip x 6-10 strips per day); unpredictable insulins (ergo the requirement for frequent testing); frequent interaction with medical experts (doctors/educators). For those who are wealthy or particularly well-insured, other options include insulin pumps ($5K-$8K) and continuous blood glucose monitors, plus assorted costly ‘conveniences’. He has survived (managed) this disease for 56 years, so is well-suited to compare treatment evolution. His conclusion: it costs a great deal more money to manage the disease today than it did in days past . . . management is more complicated today, but outcomes are little changed.

  9. stripes

    Regarding the manufactured financial crisis, you can recognize the same rhetoric coming from the corps, the attorneys, the media, law enforcement, and the politicians. It can be described as a certain arrogance. Everytime I pass a Walmart parking lot packed with cars I feel sick. It is the same feeling I get from commercials for these corps and banks. I find it hard to digest the fact that the American people continue to do business with them. We have become a nation of crap consumers. We would rather shop the foreign owned multinationals under the guise of “saving money” then spend a couple more bucks and shop the small mom and pop shops. We are putting ourselves under by our own stupidity. There are things we can’t easily avoid such as paying the utility bills but there are things we can do to make an impact. We can take the money out of everything possible.

  10. Susan the other

    If we put as much money into genetic an cellular research as we do into all of our virtually ineffective chemicals we would have much better results. Not only the cause of disease and promising vaccines, but the cellular manufacture of various proteins which actually work to cure disease will someday make these arguments obsolete. I can’t help thinking that the pharmaceutical industry will do everything it can to slow this progress because it will be unpatentable for the most part. Discovering how biology really works.

    1. Melody

      Curing disease is not a desirable business model for BigPharma and its investors. (Almost a century after Banting & Best “discovered” insulin and gifted their discovery to a University, we still do not know–with any specificity the CAUSE of the disease.)

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Indeed. We do not know what the ingredients are, where they came from, who prepared them, or why. Think “sausage factory” and the opacity of “prepared foods.” We are ignorant of the true purposes of BigPharma at any time.

      2. RBHoughton

        Spot on Melody. No point in researching or offering a cure when daily treatment of symptoms is so profitable.

        This is the structural problem in the pharmaceutical industry and it requires bold amendment of the patenting regime. A few years of monopoly should be adequate.

    2. Pay no attention to ...

      You got it Susan ! Big Pharma is in this for money, profits, bonuses. If they really cured anything, they would lose a profit center. It’s no different than any other preditory capitalist venture, or what they used to call monopolies. Drugs to alleviate symptoms, that are expensive, patentable and need to be taken regularly. That’s what we’re helping them to produce, as well as making it as hard as possible for any competition – herbs, natural cures – to be even considered.

  11. stripes

    I went to the pharmacy one day to purchase allergy pills. The process the customer and the pharmacist has to go through to buy Allegra D is tyrannical. I remarked to the pharmacists ..all of this so that someone can’t make crack out of this stuff? She said Right..with my background I should be making it..! So there you have it…more manufactured tyranny. People can make anything they want with the right knowledge. More proof that this is about control. I doubt the war on making crack will be won by this fascist measure. I don’t believe the Government has a right to oppress the people in any way, shape or form. What these politicians don’t get is the more boundaries they try to create, the more
    defiant people become. That is because our creator intended for all of us to be free and independent.

  12. jsmith

    The fact that there are people in this country who could actually defend the pharmaceutical corporations is really almost too much to believe.

    So, we have the means by which to save people’s lives through medication but we’ve just decided as a society to NOT save their lives because they don’t have money.

    That says everything about the USA.

    Yeah, we could give you this pill and make you better but – f*ck it – since you can’t pay, better luck next life, pal!

    Someone already mentioned it and I second it:

    Nationalize every pharmaceutical corporation.

    Every last one.

    And institute a societal policy that if a person is suffering from a disease/ailment for which there is medicine, they will get that medicine – gasp – for free.


    Because the current option puts us all in the position of playing God and becoming callous inhuman assholes and we should all be disgusted with being put in that position.

  13. Sean

    I’ve bought prescriptions here in the US (from Costco or Sam’s, I forget) and these were made in India as well as Romania. So drugs are being imported just not by ordinary people. Now if US facilities are suspect as to the quality, what about those in India or Eastern Europe? Who is guaranteeing that?

    All this is going to do is give pharma an excuse to charge more to US population to recoup the losses in China/India.


  14. Wyoming

    I am a conservative and a lifelong republican. But I believe that health care has an overriding moral and ethical component which must be satisfied before the constraints of ideology are wrapped around it. I am unable to put capitalistic ideology (intellectual property rights, profits, wealth creation, etc) on a higher plane than alleviating human suffering. To do so is immoral and unethical in my opinion.

    Some types of human knowledge and achievement, by genetic right, belong to all members of our species. Just like our genetic code belongs to all of us and no one should be able to patent it. No matter who is first in figuring out how the specifics of the chemistry and biology. The people who accomplish these things deserve a good living and especially deserve our collective respect for their work and accomplishments. That, however, is the limit of what their compensation should be. If they are solely motivated by greed, and do not find the respect and thanks of their fellow citizens sufficient compensation for their efforts, then they need to find something else to do. Others who are differently motivated will be happy to fill their shoes.

    The health care system should be operated entirely as a non-profit undertaking; from running hospitals, to drug research and manufacturing, to general medical care. Compensation to all of the personnel involved in the health care system should be fair for their respective skills, but not at a level that results in great wealth.

    1. Melody

      And you know what, Wyoming? There would be people more than willing to step up, earn a decent living, pursue their dreams, and fill these openings. The argument, often, is that without the right ‘incentives’, progress would cease. Horse-pucky! I’m married to an inventor; it’s what he DOES, it’s who he IS. He loves solving problems; he loves standing on the shoulders of giants and incrementally adding to the body of knowledge/technology that can be passed along to the next innovator.

      1. stripes

        We need more creative people who are innovators. I hope that your husband is wildly successful in his endeavors!

      2. Heretic

        You know Melody, you just hit on something important. We need to understand what is the ‘culture’ research scientists and innovators.
        My suspicion is that they are not driven to gain huge gobs of money, but are more like your husband… Driven to investigate and solve problems.
        It would be very valuable if we could get some decent evidence concerning the makeup of these people, and develop a management that can draw out the best of these people as well as accommodate the outlier rebels within the group. My suspicion is that if we have them minimum bureaucratic hassles, funded their research curiosities, and protected them from excessive money worries, these people woul be happy ‘to do what they do’.

        Usually people like this are bad with money an investments… I wonder how many have lost their homes…

        1. Melody

          I would suggest that now, when youngsters select a field, many are money-driven–perhaps necessarily so to pay off student debt and keep up with the Jones’s. We also see role models–key opinion leaders in many fields–who enrich themselves with speaker’s fees, book royalties, and other rewards of celebrity. However, back in the day, many researchers CHOSE academia because of intellectual freedom and long-term job security/benefits. (IOW, hubby accepted a lesser salary than he might have gotten in private industry, but was compensated well-enough to provide for his family, take an occasional vacation, and truly enjoy his work.) What’s that old saying: Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to ‘work’ a day in your life.

          Sadly, many of these oldsters with vast storehouses of knowledge (though many are not particularly tech-literate) find that they are obsolete. I daydream of some sort of collective community where these ‘old farts’, with only a bit of financial support for supplies and equipment, could collaborate without the need to ‘publish or perish’, without the requirement to obtain grant money, without the selfishness that precludes cooperative efforts and quest for celebrity. In the meantime, I’ve been blessed to share a life with someone who is unselfish and whose outside-the-box thinking enlivens our days.

          1. ambrit

            Dear Melody;
            “..many of these oldsters…find that they are obsolete.”
            Well, not really. I’ve found in my own tiny slice of life that the Boxx Store I work for doesn’t treat me ‘second class’ because I’m obsolete, (I answer LOTS of ‘how to’ questions for customers every day,) but because I’m not “Maximizing Profit” for the corporation. So, no, we’re not obsolete so much as not ‘with it’ as far as the present out of balance socio-economic system is concerned. So be it.

          2. Pay no attention to ...

            I agree with you Melody, and it’s nice to see someone who actually works at something they enjoy and not just chasing the almighty dollar. Of course profit is a motive for inovation, but whereas profits used to be profits back in the day, now we’re seeing crazy ridiculous profits and out-and-out greed. The big corporations act as though they are desperate to pile up as much profit and bonuses every quarter just in case they don’t have the opportunity to do so next quarter, and on and on. It’s beginning to become clear that all these concepts of helping your fellow man in the guise of medicine or even political freedom are just ways to part people from their money and resources.

  15. HEY YOU

    If the SCOTUS kills “Obamacare”, I’m certain that private health insurance premiums will fall drastically.ROFL

    1. pdx

      Dream on. Have you seen the palaces–er, headquarters–these companies are building for themselves? Seen the enormous advertisements, taken a look at the salles and marketing staffs they’re hiring? The fix is in.

  16. Nathanael

    Drug reimportation is gonna happen anyway. Banning it was such an obvious piece of corporate welfare, and is genuinely difficult to enforce.

    1. Pay no attention to ...

      Yes, it is corporate welfare. The corporation buys the drugs from India for a song, sells them all over the world at whatever the market will bear – of course here in the USA the market will bear whatever the corrupt politicians say – and it’s more than anywhere else. So, no we can’t get the same Indian-produced drugs from Canada or Mexico. We have to support one of the highest-profit industries in the world.

  17. Pay no attention to ...

    Wouldn’t it be nice if our government negociated prices with the pharma companies instead of letting them gouge us on prices and give them our tax dollars to research new products they can gouge us on, and blanket the media with marketing.

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