In pitching their legislative priorities for the next round of Covid relief, Democrats are again politicking for liberal wish-list items unrelated to battling the medical and economic devastation of the pandemic. It is clear they aim to spare no expense (of our money) to massage every progressive voting constituency with a pulse. Her latest $3 trillion “relief” bill makes it rain for insolvent blue states, voting by mail, and foreign workers, for starters. To drive the point home, the word “cannabis” appears more times than “jobs.”
In fulfilling their mandate to never let a crisis go to waste, Democrats saved their most harmful proposals for health care, at a time when finding solutions to beat back the pandemic is a life and death priority. Their amplified demands for single-payer, socialized medicine naturally sidesteps the fact socialized healthcare systems are faring much worse than the U.S. in handling the virus.
Just as dangerous is their renewed attempt to tear down the patent and intellectual property (IP) protections that power medical innovation. In the midst of a pandemic, when the biopharmaceutical industry is feverishly working around the clock to find coronavirus treatments, the attack on IP could leave the Covid medicine cabinet bare.
Arrogant and shortsighted, the legislative assault on IP dictates to drug makers exactly how they are allowed to proceed in creating Covid-related treatments critical to our nation. The legislation commences by demanding that any approved treatment be made available at a price the government deems “reasonable” and then pivots to mandate forced licensing. Lastly, the Democrat bill orders “transparency” so the creator of any treatment would have to turn over to government bureaucrats how drugs were developed and the costs involved.
Said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the goal is to “protect consumers” and “make sure that the treatments are and will be affordable.”
This is reckless, and fails to answer how putting the thumb-screws to the medical industry will produce more and better cures. America has the most robust, innovative and prolific pharmaceutical industry in the world directly because of our strong patent protections. Schakowsky and her colleagues are either oblivious or indifferent to the reality that novel pharmaceuticals are extremely expensive to develop, test and bring to market, often requiring the investment of billions of dollars.
The IP warriors further fail to grasp that the inventor scientists, chemists, and biologists already have a jump on the creation of Covid treatments through the fruits of previous research that was shared and licensed between biopharmaceutical companies, universities, and government agencies. America’s medical ecosystem is rapidly developing Covid treatments with over 1,000 clinical studies underway. And as they have done with past outbreaks, drug makers have already made a strong, public commitment to a wide distribution of approved treatments at an affordable cost to the public. Dr. Anthony Fauci himself has hammered this point home in saying he has never seen a vaccine “priced out of reach” for low and middle-income patients.
A working, widely available medicine that helps save lives and defangs this vicious pandemic is of course the very top priority of every American. But government mandates, price caps, and the elimination of intellectual property protections that remove incentives to innovate are the fastest, most sure-fire way to see that treatments are never realized.
Our best minds, working on the best solutions to speed treatments and cures to the public are all a result of a strong and consistent IP framework. If we are serious about finding workable Covid treatments, government should be protecting innovation and removing regulatory barriers that cause treatments to be delayed or scuttled. The inexorable lesson from history is we get more innovation – and cures - by getting government out of the way.
Matthew Ridley, who just published How Innovation Works, an exhaustive examination into the causes and catalysts for material progress, frames the cause perfectly.
“From testing, to cures, to developing a vaccine, to creative and practical methods of physical distancing, the solution to the current crises is more innovation, not less," Ridley writes. "That means more freedom, not less.”
Ridley concludes that, “Necessity is not the mother of invention. Ambition is.”
It is more than ironic that a government that spent over $2 billion on a website is on a soapbox dictating costs to medical innovators. And it is frightening that some lawmakers would be so cavalier in eliminating the protections that drive innovation. Government has never developed, tested and brought a drug to market, but government’s heavy hand can certainly prevent innovation and deny cures for patients. In the current battle with a vicious pandemic, efforts to crush medical innovation would be tantamount to surrender.
Gerard Scimeca is an attorney and co-founder of CASE, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.