Drug Wars

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On Dec. 5, three Democratic representatives wrote a letter supporting the importation and domestic sale of drugs manufactured under “compulsory license.” Compulsory license is a recently invented rationalization that enables socialist governments to ignore pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights whenever they don’t want to pay the market price for a drug. A belief common among the Left is that drug manufacturers are rich and greedy, don’t need the protection of their patents, and will still make plenty of money without them.

I wonder how many Hollywood leftists would agree with that premise if it were extended into their domain; Le., consumers should be able to buy bootleg DVDs from Korea, if they feel the Hollywood distributors aren’t charging reasonable prices.

Some might suggest that government funding of medical research would give them part ownership of all medical patents. Since Garrison Keillor records “Prairie Home Companion” with the support of the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting, does that mean we have a right to bootleg and sell broadcasts of his show? Since “Dances with Wolves” was partly filmed in national parks, does Kevin Costner forfeit his copyright on the movie?

Some might believe that pharmaceutical patents should have less protection because people’s lives depend on medicines. I think if we are able to ignore any intellectual property protections, it should be the copyrights on movies and campy radio shows, because people’s lives are not dependent on them. If it is possible to steal a patent from a pharmaceutical corporation in the event of a flu pandemic, then pharmaceutical companies are not going to invest resources into flu vaccines. Seems to me that if we’re not going to protect something as important as medicine, there’s no sense in protecting radio, motion picture, television, or performing artists either. Think pharmaceutical companies are evil, greedy, self-interested, and overpaid? Not compared to performing artists. I mean really, why should we be using the awesome powers and financial reserves of the United States government just to protect something as worthless as a Barbra Streisand CD? Is anyone going to die if nobody makes another URocky” picture? Is protection of an artist’s intellectual property really a valid expense fOf a government with a multi-trillion dollar mortgage?

Necessity does not equal entitlement. Just as some think that the pharmaceutical companies have excess profits, most Americans have an excess kidney. (You only need one!) Meanwhile, thousands of people are dying while waiting for a transplant. If the people with the extra kidneys refuse to donate them, perhaps we should just take them under compulsory license, and save people’s lives. I think most leftists should agree that anyone opposed to excess kidney forfeiture while people are dying is either cruel or stupid.

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