This should work out spectacularly. Bernie Sanders has had enough with Big Pharma and the high prices they charge for their stupid miracle drugs. And gosh darn it, he’s got a solution. He’ll use the power of the government to force pharmaceutical companies to charge a “fair price” for their goods. (Huffington Post)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to propose a new rule Monday that would require pharmaceutical companies to charge fair prices for drugs developed with taxpayer-backed research, he told HuffPost.
The rule, introduced as an amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, would force federal agencies and federally funded nonprofits, such as research universities, to secure a reasonable pricing agreement from a manufacturer before granting patents to make drugs, vaccines or other health care products.
The bill is Sanders’ latest attempt to stop the Department of Defense from awarding drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to produce a Zika vaccine developed over the past year by the U.S. Army.
Sanders is primarily talking about the Zika vaccine here (which definitely had a lot of tax money involved in its developement) but he goes further, saying, “The days of allowing Sanofi and other drug makers to gouge American consumers after taking billions in taxpayer money must end.” While Sanofi is something of a special case, the Senator peppers his speech with plenty of references indicating that all drug makers, including American ones, are being put on notice.
On the one hand, Bernie is talking about a very real issue here. We’ve had an incredibly incestuous relationship between the government and the pharmaceutical companies growing right before our eyes for ages. But the fact is that Congress allowed that money to flow to those corporation in the interest of spurring development and innovation. Once it was put on the table, obviously the companies in question would take it. But now he wants to come along and claim that the government can tell them what to charge for their products since they accepted some of that dirty government funding.
Senator Sanders, allow me to tell you a story about somebody else who wanted to keep prices down via the power of the government. His name is Nicolas Maduro and he didn’t want food to cost too much, so he mandated what farmers could be paid for their produce. The farmers went broke and then went out of business and their farms largely sit fallow while the people starve. And that’s in a country where the President can literally send a squad of goons out to gun you down if you don’t do what he wants or if he just doesn’t like the look on your face. The United States has no such power over companies operating here. If you force them to lower their prices they may just stop making the product.
There are probably solutions to this problem, but they would involve an unpleasant capitalist / Libertarian approach. If you don’t want tax dollars mixed up in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, stop authorizing the payments. But keep in mind that they are companies which manufacture products and provide services just like any other. As insanely angry as it makes progressives to hear it, nobody has an inalienable right to medicines, medical devices or the professional services of doctors or nurses. You don’t have a right to those things any more than to flat screen televisions or having someone come out and fix your roof.
If you want prices to come down, make better deals. Negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies in a smarter fashion. Use the massive buying power of the nation’s entitlement programs to your advantage. But what you’re trying to do here has a distinctly socialist feel to it and we all know how that ends. Just look at Venezuela.