Buying cures versus renting health: Financing health care with consumer loans

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Science Translational Medicine  24 Feb 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 327, pp. 327ps6
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad6913

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  • RE: Commodity or Public Good

    This well-intentioned and sophisticated proposal is an indirect and powerful indictment of our drug development system. The novel HepC drugs offer the prospect of eradicating this serious illness. Lack of widespread use of these agents compromises not only the health of present patients but also puts huge numbers of future individuals at risk. Treating HepC drugs as a consumer commodity is unlikely to result in the breadth of treatment required to definitively address this major public health problem. The authors themselves clearly prefer that these drugs be treated as a public good and be made universally available. An alternative would be for Congress to appropriate a substantial sum – many billions of dollars seems appropriate – and purchase the rights of these drugs. The intellectual property would be assigned to a non-profit entity that would manufacture and distribute these drugs at cost. This concept is no more utopian than the authors’ proposal, which would require constant and costly regulation to ensure efficacy. In addition, the authors’ proposal exhibits a considerable degree of naiveté. Their proposed approach is precisely the type of well-intentioned expedient that tends to become a permanent and ultimately unsatisfactory permanent solution. Federal purchase of intellectual property would a simpler and more beneficial expedient. In the long run, a major reform of our drug development process is required, perhaps along the lines suggested by economis...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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