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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Washington Post Reports That Drug Patents Kill More than 1 Million People a Year

Washington Post Reports That Drug Patents Kill More than 1 Million People a Year

Saturday, 11 September 2010 07:48

The Post ran a badly confused article on unauthorized drugs and the harm they allegedly cause. The article uses the terms "counterfeit" and "fake" indiscriminately. It reports that some of the drugs bear the names of major manufacturers, indicating that many do not. Only the former can be viewed as "counterfeits."

The drugs that are not falsely sold as the products of major manufacturers are bought by people who understand that they are not buying a drug produced by a major drug company. This means that they are likely buying the drug because it sells for a price that is far below the price of the drugs sold by the major manufacturers.

For this reason, the article's assertion that:

"Experts say the global fake-drug industry, worth about $90 billion, causes the deaths of almost 1 million people a year and is contributing to a rise in drug resistance,"

is absurd on its face. The vast majority of the people buying these drugs would almost certainly not be able to afford the drugs produced by the major drug companies. If the $90 billion figure is true, then this implies that people around the world are buying tens of billions of prescriptions of unauthorized drugs. (Legal generics often sell for $4 at major retail chains in the United States. Presumably, unauthorized copies sell for much less in the developing world.)

While not all of these prescriptions involve life-saving drugs, even if just one in a thousand of these prescriptions is for a life-saving drug then the information in the article implies that unauthorized drugs are saving tens of millions of lives every year. Of course if we used a more efficient mechanism than patents to finance research then people around the world would be able to get high quality drugs at low prices.


Comments (8)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, September 11, 2010 9:36
We've heard this before Mr Commy Mommy. We know what you're up to. You're trying to bring down capitalism aren't you. Admit it, you might as well encourage outright theft of legal drugs from pharmacies to save millions of lives.

Any economist knows this will kill incentives to produce legitimate drugs and collect economic rent above the marginal cost of production and distribution. Then there won't be any lives to save will there. They'll all be dead won't they. What planet are you on anyway.

*This message is from Counterfeit This!, an organization established to increase the fixed cost and economic rent of intellectual property as high as possible.
"There you go again."
written by diesel, September 11, 2010 10:19
"There you go again"* Dean, putting the value of human life above profit and law.

*Reagan's quote in the presidential debates with Carter which he intoned whenever Carter implied that government could be useful in solving some societal problem.
Big Drug Companies Import Bad Drugs with No Follow Up
written by FoonTheElder, September 13, 2010 1:13
Of course they forgot about the import of tainted drugs produced by and for the large drug companies.

The contaminated Heparin from 2007-8 made in China and sold in the U.S. killed 81 people. What investigation was done? Apparently nothing!

"Chinese security authorities told a US official in Beijing in June 2008, that China wasn’t investigating the heparin episode as a criminal or administrative matter, he tells the paper."

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.