(RightWing.org) – One of the biggest problems with healthcare in the US is the cost of medications. Drugs are expensive to develop, and manufacturers want to see a return on their investment; unfortunately, that means high prices for customers. Now President Biden has hinted at radical action to make medicine cheaper. It could work — but it might have drastic consequences.
For the last nine months, the Biden administration has been reviewing the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which covers limited circumstances where federal contractors can acquire the patent rights to inventions made with federal funding. It looks like Biden has now re-interpreted it to mean the government has a right to seize those patent rights — and he’s talking about using it against drug companies.
The Department of Commerce is now looking at amending the rules to fit Biden’s ironically named Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, allowing the government to seize patents from the companies that hold them.
According to Biden, seizing the patents for expensive medications would allow the government to have them manufactured more cheaply, cutting healthcare costs. This makes sense. If the government can produce medications at cost they’ll be less expensive, and drug costs make up a significant part of healthcare bills. In the short term, at least, this could be good news for Americans who need medication.
The big question is, what happens in the long term? Developing new drugs is expensive in time and scientific expertise. And while drug companies certainly haven’t always been innocent of profiteering, they do need to make a profit on patented medications.
If they can’t make a profit they have nothing to gain from developing them — so they’ll either move their research labs to countries with less predatory patent laws, or just not bother developing new drugs. Do we want cheaper medicine now, or maybe a cure for cancer in ten years? Now Biden might make that choice for us.
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