The Washington Post gave us another front page moral hand wringer. A round of treatment of Sovaldi, a new and effective drug for treating Hepatitis C, costs $84,000. With three million people suffering from the disease that comes to $250 billion. Should insurers be required to pay the price? How about government programs like Medicaid?
Yes, that could be a real tough question, but for those not committed to using protectionism to maintain the drug industry's profits, the answer is simple: trade. Generic versions of Sovaldi are available in India for less than $1,000 a treatment. We can pay to send patients and their families to India and receive the treatment there (in modern facilities) and still save tens of thousands of dollars per patient. The question becomes much simpler if we are talking about something like $10,000 per patient rather than $84,000.
This would of course disrupt the system of supporting research with government-granted patent monopolies, but it is long past time we talked about more efficient ways of financing drug research, even if the drug companies do pay lots of money to advertise in the Washington Post.