Drug price increases unmask the failure of capitalism to assist medicine

by Glen Wallace

Capitalism not only often does not assist the medical field, it is very often its worst enemy.  The recent case of a particular drug having its price raised so much as to amount to rank price gouging demonstrates the need to completely overhaul the entire economic structure of the medical field.  Outside of a clinical trial, patients are entirely at the mercy of the whims and fancies of for-profit pharmaceutical corporations to provide any medicine, at whatever price they feel they can get away with.  And yet, despite cases of such well publicized price gouging, the public seems to retain some fundamental misconceptions about the nature of medicine and its relationship with the realm of capitalism.  Charities continue to tout how your contributions are being used to help find a cure for some horrible disease.  But our system is set up so that the only necessary truth is that your medical charity contribution that goes toward research is only being used to assist Big Pharma in searching for their next money maker.  So, our only hope to find a cure is that some cure is found that will be more profitable for a drug company than the current inferior treatment they are now selling.  For if that ‘cure’ will not pad their bottom line to the capitalists satisfaction, there is absolutely no fiduciary reason for them to offer that cure to the public at all.  And if that pharmaceutical business is a publicly traded corporation, as they very often are, they have a legal responsibility to look after the financial interests of the shareholders and not the health of the public.

We need a medical system that is necessarily structured around making patient health the top priority.  That seems like a common sense philosophy, but we are not currently using such a philosophy.  Instead, the public is just operating under the assumption that the only way to incentivize and finance the quest to find better treatments and cures is to succumb to the mercy of the capitalist sharks.  What we forget is that the people on the front lines of that medical quest, are researchers and practitioners that generally don’t stand to gain financially by the introduction of any new drug or treatment.  Therefore, why not put those front-line medical people, who are motivated by a combination of genuine altruistic caring about the patients and a healthy competitive environment between researches striving to be the first to find that elusive ‘cure’?  How are we then going to finance such a system?  Well, I can’t think of a better and more popular use for the pooling of the public’s money in government coffers than to fund such research.  And if no drug company wishes to manufacture and sell a new found cure at a reasonable price?  Then we the people could take on that task as well and let such an organization as the NIH manufacture and sell at cost the new cure.