Saturday's New York Times had an astonishingly sensible article about the drug reimportation issue. (You can go ahead and insert the phrase ". . .especially for the New York Times") Some highlights:
"It may make political sense to point to Canada as a solution to high prescription drug prices in the United States. But many economists and health care experts say that importing drugs from countries that control their prices would do little to solve the problem of expensive drugs in the United States, where companies are free to set their own prices. Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that allowing Canadian drug imports would have a "negligible" impact on drug spending. To begin with, there are not enough Canadians, or drugs in Canada, to make much of a dent in the United States. There are 16 million American patients on Lipitor, for instance - more than half the entire Canadian population."
Quite so, and as the article goes on to point out, we in the drug industry have no incentive to ship Canadian pharmacies ten times as much stock as they need for their own country. It's not going to be pretty, but cutting things off at the supply end is what's going to happen - unless, of course, Congress manages to make that particular business decision illegal, as they're threatened to do. Here's some more:
". . .the measures proposed so far would do little to change the fundamental economics of the drug industry as it exists today. Prescription drugs cost a lot to invent, but once invented cost little to manufacture. That is why patents are granted to drug companies - to prevent other companies from copying their inventions long enough for the inventors to set prices high enough to recover their investment and make a profit. But price controls short-circuit this system."
That's absolutely correct in every detail, and such is the state of journalism today that I could not believe my eyes when I read it. I starting waving the paper around, clutching my chest and calling out to my wife: "It's the big one! I can feel it!" She's used to me. And one last quote:
"But the United States market is hard to compare with any other. It represented more than half of the global drug industry's sales of $410 billion last year and was the country in which drug companies make the bulk of their profits. Whatever one thinks of the pricing disparity, efforts to force down American prices to Canadian or European levels could radically change the economics of the pharmaceutical industry - which effectively depends on United States profits for all of its activities, including a substantial portion of its spending on research and development.
American consumers are "subsidizing everyone's R&D,'' said Mr. Love, the consumer advocate. "We're paying way more than everyone else. Others should pay more.''
This article is bylined Eduardo Porter, and I wish to publicly salute the man. I'll think of this every time I'm about to get the vapors about reimportation and remind myself that good sense can break out.