What's wrong with the drug companies?
The answer is really simple.
They're getting paid for doing the wrong thing.
The “free market” system gives the best rewards for creating drugs that only treat, not cure patients. The logic is simple. Why make a cure that you only sell once, when you can sell a treatment for the rest of your patients' lives. The really big money is in keeping people sick.
With a totally “free market” system, we can't fix this. Its just a flaw of the “free market” that a company's best customers are like addicts. It is just a flaw of the “free market” that the ultimate goal of maximizing profits leads to making your customers as desperate as addicts. Its just a flaw of the “free market” that leads the drug companies to wish to manipulate and deregulate the U.S. regulatory system until its difficult to tell the difference between the legitimate drug industry and the street corner pusher.
Even free markets need some regulations. Even free markets need some direction. In a free country, is it legal to steal? Of course not. Without some conscious purpose, a free market is just corporate anarchy.
But we can fix this. We can pay the drug companies to come up with cures. This is sort of like the “free market,” but with a purpose and a conscience.
We could set up the equivalent of an “X-prize” for diseases. (You may recall the X-prize is essentially a reward for accomplishing something groundbreaking.) Wouldn't it be great if we could give a reward for curing cancer? How about a really big reward that would entice even the biggest corporations?
I'll bet we've spent billions during the war on cancer over the past decades. And we'll keep spending more if we don't find a cure.
What if we set up a prize for a treatment that rids us of at least 98% of all cancers. The treatment would have to be non-invasive and have few side effects. It would also have to be relatively inexpensive. In other words, we would pay good money for a practical cure for cancer.
Where would we get the money for this huge prize? Where is the money now? Right now the money is being drained from our savings accounts and insurance companies. That's right, the drug companies have lots of our money from the “treatments” they charge us (and often overcharge us) for.
Why not set up a tax on drug “treatments” that don't cure us? We would have to set things up so that the drug companies, not the consumers, would actually pay this tax. And to limit price gouging, the tax could be much higher for price increases greater than inflation.
Even a 1% tax would really add up over the years. If there had been a 1% tax on drug treatments for cancer for the past 50 years, the reward would now be astronomical! Every company, lab, and university on the planet would be scrambling for the prize.
In fact, I suspect that if we had offered a huge “X-prize” for curing cancer, we might already have a cure by now.
What would something like this X-prize take? Unfortunately, it might take the restructuring of our government. So much drug money influences our politicians now that doing the right thing is an uphill battle... But, we could get the drug companies on our side if Government funding were to match the contribution they provide. This would double the size of the prize – and bring new money into the health care system. I'd bet the drug companies would go for new profit opportunities.
Of course most importantly, in the long run, if we can find cures to the major illnesses that plague us; we will save far more money (and lives) than with our present system.
Isn't a cure worth paying for?
Maybe we just don't understand how to direct a “free” market.