Friday, February 06, 2004

US-Canada Drug Fiasco: Price Control or Patent Power Game

The Tech Central Station, where "free markets meet technology" as they claim, hosted a very important debate on recent US-Canada drug (re-)importation issue (thanks to Cowen for the link). As we recall, there has been arguments for and against the importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada to the US. A Trade-101 econ student (assuming his professor is a free-market ideolog) will definetely say that it's not fair to put ban on Canadian goods that are cheaper than American's. Let the market works and let the more competitive goods flood in. Well, this issue is far more complicated than that. Hats off for TCS for hosting this with such important panelists including the "ultimate free market pro-capitalist economist in the world", Milton Friedman. As it turns out, Dr. Friedman argues that this is not about price control. It's about patent. And the FDA has corrupted the system so bad that it costs nearly $800 million for a single new drug entity to enter the market in the US system. Canada does not have that high patent cost. They therefore can beat the drug price. Question: would the US let the Canadian drugs come in? Yes, if it has nothing to do with patent law. No, if it needs to enforce the patent law. But, is that efficient? No, the FDA has made it extremely inefficient....

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