Bernie’s plan would, first of all, guarantee universal coverage for all patients, and expands efforts like the Ryan White program. But that’s not the most innovative part: it’s a “prize” system which would drastically lower prices and create incentives in the market that reward true innovation. Instead of giving drug developers a lengthy, exclusive patent on medicine to make back their R&D cost, while prices remain high and other companies scramble to replicate the drug before it goes generic, Sanders says a cash prize should be paid out, commensurate with the degree of improvement in quality of life and how many people it will affect. Then, the drug will immediately go generic, allowing patients to get it at the lowest price and freeing up other companies to pursue their own innovations, instead of trying to profit by re-inventing the wheel. From the plan:
The Prize Fund would reward medical researchers and developers of medicines based primarily upon the added therapeutic value a new treatment offers and the number of people it benefits. Instead of a system where the market is manipulated to keep out all competition, companies would be rewarded for their innovation with a cash prize for their medical innovations, rather than through the grant of a monopoly. Under Bernie’s plan, drugs would have generic competition immediately after FDA approval.
In other words, this plan would break the link between drug development and the rewards for medical research and development. In doing so, we will reward true innovation, eliminate the market incentive for copycat drugs and get all HIV/AIDS treatments to the people who need them at generic prices.
This is exactly the kind of innovation we need. Currently, HIV treatment can cost nearly a half a million dollars in drugs alone per individual in the US. We need to continue to reward expensive research and development while bending down that cost curve for treatment, and plans like this are just the way to do it.
Rewarding companies with cash prizes instead of patents has a long history of success, and it has the backing of many economists and policy analysts from across the political spectrum. It also has the potential to revolutionize HIV/AIDS treatment in the third world, since currently the government subsidizes expensive drugs for citizens at great costs, making them unavailable to others. If we instead used that money to pay for prizes instead of patents and allowed the drugs to be generic, this could allow for people who live under governments which cannot afford such subsidies to have access to the latest treatments, saving countess lives.
As New Scientist points out in support of the Sanders approach:
The global intellectual property regime denies poor people access to lifesaving drugs.
Helping our citizens with HIV afford their medication. Rewarding companies for innovation instead of encouraging them to replicate another company’s patent. Helping poor people in developing nations have access to lifesaving drugs. This is why I’m feeling the Bern. If you want us to win on Tuesday, please rec and share this post on social media.