Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump caused a firestorm recently by suggesting that Hillary Clinton undergo a drug test before the final presidential debate on Wednesday.
I don’t blame Trump at all. Clinton’s health — a dubious subject at best — has looked remarkably engineered lately.
But there’s another reason to be suspicious that Clinton might be hopped up on something: She could probably get whatever she needs free. Why? Because the pharmaceutical industry has already donated more money to Clinton than every other candidate of the entire 2016 field combined. With an investment like that, heaven only knows what Clinton could probably get gratis from her Big Pharma friends if she needed it.
And while we’re on the subject of Big Pharma, someone should test their leaders for drug use too. Given the extent to which their behavior flies in the face of public opinion, it’s not unreasonable to think they might be high.
For example, just at the end of last month, a poll arrived from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that a full 77 percent of Americans believe drug prices are unreasonably high. And given the scandals over Daraprim and Epipens, not to mention the sky high state of drug prices in general, one really doesn’t have to do much thinking to see why. In order to avoid the status of public pariah, you would think pharma would react to this by biting the bullet and eating a few decreases in profit in order to retain some shred of public trust.
You would be hilariously wrong. Like a thug hopped up on PCP, pharma apparently has decided that the best response to industry-threatening numbers like this is to just keep going as if it feels no pain. Witness its two biggest legislative pushes recently — the destruction of the inter parties review process, and the weakening of the 340B drug pricing program.
The inter partes review (IPR) process is essentially a means whereby defendants in patent suits can challenge the patents in question directly before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) — a panel of lawyers convened by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The PTAB has never, to this point, invalidated a new patent granted to pharmaceutical companies. The only pharmaceutical patents it has struck down are ones extended for illegitimate, usually spurious reasons.
The problem for Big Pharma is that with the end of patent protections comes the end of its ability to charge monopoly prices. It extends the ability to charge these prices through a process called “evergreening,” That means coming up with reasons to extend the duration of a patent whenever it runs out. Monopoly prices today, monopoly prices tomorrow, monopoly prices forever.
Then there’s the fight over the 340B drug pricing program, which requires pharmaceutical companies who want to sell to the lucrative Medicare Part B and Medicaid drug markets to offer medicines at cheaper prices to hospitals that serve vulnerable populations. These include rural hospitals, children’s hospitals, and safety-net hospitals that serve mostly poor patients. Pharma hates the program mostly because it prevents it from selling drugs at full price to all customers. So it tries to smear the hospitals involved as profiteering off the program, even though that’s precisely what drug companies would like to be doing themselves.
One expects this kind of rent-seeking from big business, particularly businesses that donate so much to Democrats. But to do it when over three quarters of Americans dislike the very practice that you’re trying to protect?
Well, even if we never get that drug test on Hillary herself, let’s just say that some of Hillary’s largest campaign donors have already spectacularly failed at demonstrating their sobriety.