Pharma has developed all sorts of devious tricks to extend the duration of its patent monopoly on older drugs and also works hard to develop new "me too" drugs that provide no advantage to patients, but protect its monopoly pricing power.
Our policies toward prescription drugs not only violate Mill's freedom principle, they are also absurdly irrational. Pharmaceutical companies are permitted to advertise their prescription drugs to clients who are not legally permitted to freely purchase them.
It's increasingly clear that entrusting decisions involving medical science to the DEA is akin to leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse. And what's most striking is how little scrutiny the DEA has faced from Congress or other federal overseers.
But what if you want to incentivize investment in bold new drugs instead of me-too drugs? What if you want to encourage research into new areas that tangibly improve people's health? Then maybe, like India, you would only grant patents when that higher standard is met.
The realities of pharmaceutical research are brutal, consisting of decade-and-a-half long timescales, mind-numbing costs and exceedingly long, soul-crushing odds of success. In the fight against cancer, this rings especially true.