Simplification and Sunshine

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
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Robin Feldman on Drug Patents,... Chris Blattman on Chickens, Ca...

sunshine.jpg Why do prescription drugs cost so much, and who's to blame for their continued high prices? This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed Robin Feldman to talk about her new book, Drug Wars. Why don't we see more generic drugs on the market? Is it for our safety...or something else? Who's watching the henhouse?

1. What does Feldman mean by "weak patents," and why do they make it harder for generic drugs to reach the market?

2.What are the three ways Feldman describes that brand-name drug companies try to prevent generics from coming to market, and why do these tactics seem to be so immune to challenge?

3. Why don't insurance companies clamor to keep drug prices down, given they face incentives to cut costs?

4. Is the problem of artificially high drug prices an example of the Bootleggers and Baptists phenomenon? Why or why not?

5. Feldman remains optimistic about the potential to reform the system and lower the burden for bringing new drugs to market. She stresses the need for ruthless simplification, functioning and competitive markets, and "sunshine." Which of these do you find the most hopeful, and why? How would you suggest this particular problem be tackled?

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COMMENTS (1 to date)
Sam writes:

The obvious solution that was not really discussed is to strengthen the patent office and instruct them to use much more stringent criteria for issuing patents.

Another idea would be to lower the duration of patents broadly from 20 years down to 15 or even 10 years. There is nothing magical about the current 20 years, lowering that range would simply be a redistributive policy.

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