An innovative solution to the high cost of prescription drugs is emerging in one of the unlikeliest places: Louisiana’s state government.
The Louisiana health secretary, Dr. Rebekah Gee, has called attention to the plight of tens of thousands of state residents suffering from infection with the hepatitis C virus who cannot afford lifesaving treatment. She also is publicly considering the idea of asking the federal government to invoke a century-old law to help them. Using this law, the government could authorize a generic drug company to make a copy of an existing hepatitis C medication more than a decade before patents are due to expire. The pharmaceutical industry has strongly objected, arguing for unrestricted power to set prices.
What happens next could answer the critical question of what comes first: the pharmaceutical industry’s power over pricing or the public’s health.