The rapid spread of the coronavirus has revived a decades-old debate over pharmaceutical policy, with both sides doubling down on long-held views. Advocates for broader drug access insist that pharmaceutical companies must not be allowed to reap large profits from Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Free-market true believers — including officials in the Trump administration — argue that pharmaceutical businesses must be allowed to set prices beyond some patients’ reach.
This either-or choice was always a false framing. And as the Covid-19 crisis tragically illustrates, it’s a dangerous one too. Patient advocates need to acknowledge that pharmaceutical companies aren’t the enemy — the virus is. But it’s equally urgent for free-marketers to recognize that with government help, we can reward businesses for groundbreaking innovations without sacrificing poorer patients along the way.
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