LOPEZ: Big Government Policies Are Threatening Medical Innovation And Research

(Shutterstock/Darren Baker)

Raul Lopez Contributor
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Latinos like me — and other immigrant groups — are drawn to this country for economic opportunity, rule of law and prosperity.

They are also drawn to the high quality of life we enjoy here, including our country’s capacity to innovate in a wide variety of fields, including medicine.

Unfortunately, these national strengths are currently under threat because of needless government intervention. 

The reality is that patients across our country and the world have benefited from America’s biomedical and pharmaceutical innovation through extensive private-sector research and development. We have seen new cures, made incredible breakthroughs and realized advancements that are improving health outcomes and extending lives.

But the research and testing that are required for these medications require a substantial financial investment. And most consumers would be stunned to realize the soaring costs of developing a single new drug. One study earlier this year estimated the cost at up to $2 billion per drug, from the early stages of discovery to the final stages of bringing the drug to market. According to the Congressional Budget Office, these costs have skyrocketed 10-fold since the 1980s. 

Companies in the United States that are spending these dollars rely on the legal protections of our government to prevent their ideas from being stolen by other companies and governments. 

Those protections recently suffered a blow when the Biden administration announced that it will literally allow the federal government to steal private companies’ intellectual property if they don’t like their prices. 

According to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, “Under the proposed Biden guidelines, march-in rights will be used as price controls. Government agencies could seize patents if ‘the price or other terms at which the product is currently offered to the public are not reasonable’ or ‘unreasonably limit availability of the invention to the public.'”

This wouldn’t just affect drug manufacturers, but the patents and innovations of other manufacturers as well, including companies involved in semiconductors, nuclear energy, battery technology and a variety of other innovations stemming from the CHIPS Act. 

“Alas, the Biden Administration cares more about expanding government control over the private economy than accelerating life-saving treatments,” the Journal’s editorial board continued.

The government’s watering-down of intellectual property protections is nothing new. The Biden administration’s waiving of protections as part of our relationship with the World Trade Organization earlier this year only made things worse. 

The initial issuing of TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waivers during the COVID pandemic allowed countries around the world to produce vaccines during the pandemic. However, even though the pandemic is now over, the WTO and the Biden administration want to extend the waiver and also expand it to include COVID-related testing and therapeutics – handing American pharmaceutical manufacturers’ intellectual property over to the likes of China, India, South Africa, Russia and others. It’s unfair to companies that have invested in lifesaving treatments to hand over their innovations to other countries. 

The move hurts our country’s innovative advantage, according to Marc L. Busch, a professor of international business diplomacy at Georgetown University, and will advance efforts by China to boost its economic dominance.  

But it’s not just about what we do during a pandemic. Our country’s interest in intellectual property rights is important to health care companies, medical research and patients around the country who depend on these treatments and cures every day. 

Unfortunately, the government doubled down on the wrong strategy. In the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year, the federal government imposed price controls on certain medications. The new layers of bureaucracy and regulations mean companies have less certainty and fewer protections on their research and development. 

Not every state is as lucky as my home state of Tennessee, which has congressional leaders who understand the stakes. Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, for example, introduced the No Free TRIPS Act to require any presidential administration to receive congressional approval to waive IP safeguards using TRIPS waivers.

“Without the power of free market innovation, we will lose any chance we have at successfully managing another global public health crisis,” Blackburn said

Other national and state business groups have applauded the bill, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Any agreement that undermines IP would limit the ability of innovative companies to develop the cure for the next pandemic or global health threat and bargain away U.S. competitiveness,” the chamber wrote.

But the clock is ticking. Without robust protections of medical innovations and intellectual property, companies will begin to scale back their investment, as there is no incentive to innovate. They’ll find other places to do their research. And they will deprive America of jobs, economic growth and the latest medical breakthroughs. It will also affect long-term health outcomes and American manufacturing jobs.  

Now more than ever, Congress needs to focus on common-sense, bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing our country. They can start with strengthening intellectual property to protect our nation’s most important asset: its health.

Raul Lopez is co-founder and chairman of Latinos for Tennessee.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.