I do have a friend who works for the FDA, and she said that she spends half of her time in a postdoctoral position at the FDA, after having received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, helping pharmaceutical companies figure out how to get approved more quickly. In other words, they have people on the inside that are actually helping companies get their products onto the market more quickly. That doesn’t sound like an independent organization meant to be a check on the pharmaceutical industry. That sounds more like the pharmaceutical industry is running the FDA.
What we need to do is protest against these companies. What we need to do is buy all our pharmaceutical products from one of them so that its competitors fail. If we can narrow it down to one, prices will rise because they have no competition, but Congress, even Republicans who care about competition and the laws of economics, will notice. Republicans will think there’s no competition because consolidation and lack of competitiveness has created monopolistic conditions, and Democrats will show that there needs to be more regulation against whichever giant is the only one around. It might be a duopoly. It could be three. But when we have consolidated all the power into one company, then we can highly regulate it. Republicans think that there’s no need to regulate because, if they want consumers to buy their products, they’ll self-regulate because, otherwise, no one will trust them. However, nowadays, they don’t need our trust. They need our captivity. If we have to buy from them no matter what we feel, then they know it doesn’t matter how much we protest. However, even Republicans don’t like it when only one or two companies control the market.
Now, Trump has the idea of erasing the lines that prevent insurance companies from competing. If that helps pharmaceutical companies as well, this may speed up the consolidation process. We’ve seen this with the internet service providers. The Internet is now a utility because the government, because Obama, stepped in. Perhaps we can get this to happen with prescription and other drugs, as well, because, as that link to the NY Times states, the internet is not a luxury but a utility, and perhaps our government can see that healthcare is also a utility and not just a luxury for the rich. However, we don’t need to wait for economics to run its course or for Trump to do something that might help his pharmaceutical friends and then inadvertently hurt them in the long run. We can, in fact, push this consolidation forward. This is not a situation where we can vote with our wallets by NOT buying from certain companies but where we can vote with our wallets by picking only one company, perhaps the lesser of however many evils are out there. This will hurt the revenue of the others, force them to consolidate, which will force the DOJ to get involved, etc. etc.
We’ve seen this with the airline industry, as well. There are so few airlines. There used to be so many. The government decentralized the industry, let them do whatever they wanted and watched as market forces changed the way they operated. They watched as Delta bought Northwest, and then the DOJ started getting involved. Nowe we have very few airlines and they nearly monopolize hubs and routes. They’ve even been caught colluding with one another, making deals to stop competing along certain routes so that everyone can keep prices high. However, the government is now getting involved. They are getting involved in a very small and largely ineffective way, but one more merger and it’ll be clear to them that there’s so much consumer pressure that it’s going to hurt their chances of reelection if they don’t help airline customers fight back against the airlines.
The same can happen in the pharmaceutical industry. We have the power to make this happen. We’re in a position where we have to understand where we are in order to get where we want to go.