Monday, September 21, 2015

Drugs and capitalism...

Drugs and capitalism...  One of the signature human accomplishments is the development of effective therapeutic drugs.  The scientists and doctors who were the brains behind this accomplishment have the well-earned respect and admiration of the world's much healthier and long-lived population.  Less well understood, and certainly less respected and admired, are the capitalists who made this accomplishment possible – by their pursuit of that awesome incentive called “profit”.

Here's an article that lays out one example of the conflict that constantly arises in this industry.  In this case, the price of a particular drug increased dramatically (literally) overnight.  Given that it appears in that bastion of Progressivism – the New York Times – it is surprisingly even-handed.

It always surprises me when people are offended by the price of drugs.  They'll pay the price anyway, if they need them.  That high price is what motivates the pharmaceutical companies to develop the drugs in the first place.  Without that incentive, none would bother, and we'd all be worse off.

What to do when someone needs a drug, but really can't afford to pay for it, is a separate question altogether.  The problem isn't the high price of the drug, but rather the inability of some people to pay for them.  There are numerous experiments going on right now, worldwide, on to deal with that.  Here in the U.S., the most common mechanism currently is charitable programs from the drug companies themselves (as mentioned in this article).  It will be interesting to see which of these turn out to be most workable.  My bet would be on those programs that don't involve the government :)

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