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Don’t Ignore the Flashing Caution Lights in the Drug Pricing Debate

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Trying to rationally address hot button issues in an election year is always a dangerous proposition. That’s particularly true as we approach what promises to be one of the nastiest political years in history. Because so much time will be taken up campaigning, for legislation to pass it needs to get moving soon. It shouldn’t be long before we know whether anything meaningful will happen with attempts to reduce the costs of drugs, where intellectual property rights are in the crosshairs. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that, if action is taken, it’s based on careful consideration of all the related issues rather than raw emotion. While this may be wishful thinking, several thoughtful new articles contain important warnings against jumping down some of the beckoning gopher holes. Critics of the Bayh-Dole Act, which provides the incentives of the patent ownership to commercialize federally funded inventions, claim that the government is developing drugs from its R&D and giving them to companies that then make “obscene profits.”Despite numerous rebuttals, this red herring is continually deployed as the justification for the government setting the price of drugs coming out of public/private sector partnerships.

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