A leading US Senator has called for drug patent “monopolies” to be terminated and replaced by an annual prize fund to reward the discovery of new treatments. They would then, because of the power of competitive markets, become available at the lowest possible price.
The US prices are driven up because the government patent system that grants monopolies to pharmaceutical companies that develop new drugs, Sen Sanders told the hearing, held by the panel’s subcommittee in primary health and ageing, which he chairs. As far as he knew, he said, this was “the first Congressional hearing ever held to discuss the possibility of ending monopolies for medicines and offering a serious proposal to replace our broken system with one that would accelerate innovation while providing virtually universal access to life-saving medicines.”
Sen Sanders’ bill is supported by Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and a chief economist for the World Bank. “America is the most innovative country in the world. It has the best universities, attracting the best minds from around the world. But America also has the least efficient health care system in the world, spending more money per capita and a larger fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on the health care system than any other country – and getting far poorer outcomes than countries that spending much less,” he said.
“We need to harness our innovation system to work to drive down the costs and to improve performance, Prof Stiglitz told the hearing, adding that the approach taken by Sen Sanders’ bill is “exactly right” and “will provide a model for further reforms in our health innovation system.”