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Many Factors Drive the Price of Drugs

September 04, 2004

Re "Buying in Canada Won't Cut Drug Costs," Commentary, Aug. 31: Joel W. Hay cites the patent system as the major cause of high drug prices. He makes a good case, but seemingly ignores other factors that bear on the problem.

Today most drug companies spend as much or more on advertising, public relations and marketing than they do on research and development. Moreover, is it not true that the federal government supplies billions for drug research, perhaps 30% of the total cost annually? Are not profits for the pharmaceutical industry higher than for most other sectors? Don't drug firms routinely make minor changes to patented products, get new patents and then market them as "new and improved" -- when, in truth, they are no more effective than the older, out-of-patent drugs?

Many factors affect drug prices, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to soaring costs. We better get serious about finding answers to this and other healthcare problems before our vaunted medical system disintegrates completely.

Ken Fermoyle

Woodland Hills


My favorite sentence in Hay's piece says that the government could buy out the drug companies' pharmaceutical patents so as to provide the industry "with greater annual profits than it currently receives." Instead, the government should commission researchers or do the research and development in-house, take out the resulting patents itself and then hire the drug companies to produce the drugs, using competitive bidding, of course. The cost of prescription drugs would plummet under such a plan.

Roy Ulrich

Los Angeles


To import the drugs back into the U.S. robs the American company of profits, the stockholders of dividends and the American government of taxes. And some state governments think it is a great idea! I think it is crooked thinking.

If citizens want to live longer, they have to get used to the idea that longevity costs money. Let them shop pharmacies for lower prices. Let's put custom duties on American drugs being imported back into the U.S. As a senior citizen (age 77) I want and probably will need more of these new wonder drugs. So whom do I sue to make sure the money is available for this to happen?

Henry Lee

Santa Margarita, Calif.

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