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Thursday, May 17, 2018

When medicine is big business, can the sick ever be healed?

When medicine is big business, can the sick ever be healed?
Law professor Fran Quigley explains why medicine in the United States is so expensive.

Fran Quigley grew up in Indianapolis, the eighth of nine children. Raised Roman Catholic and steeped in the church's social tradition, he says he grew up knowing medicine as a social good, one that everyone should have access to. 

He traveled to Kenya for work before antiretrovirals were widely available for people with HIV and AIDS and met mothers and fathers dying of the disease despite that it is treatable. "Because the medicine was priced too high, the parents simply passed away. Their children were orphaned, and their parents were raising their grandchildren," he says.

As professor at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law, Quigley directs and teaches a human rights clinic where students have the opportunity to represent low-income people in the Indianapolis community. 

"The same phenomenon is occurring in Indianapolis that occurred in Eldoret, Kenya. It's one of these social ills that is present across the world, not just in the Global South," Quigley says. People remain sick--or worse--die because they simply can't afford blood pressure medication or insulin. 

His book, Prescription for the People, explores why medicine is so expensive today and offers guidance to anyone interested in making it more affordable. "I felt compelled to respond, and it's been a privilege to try to be a part of the response," he says.

What prevents people from having access to the medicines they need?

The answer is always the cost, which is heavily artificially inflated due to monopolies. Usually the problem is patent protection. It was the problem with HIV/AIDS medication back in the 1980s and 1990s in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it's the problem with the cancer meds, vaccines, and other drugs today.

We have set up a system in which a corporation can get a monopoly on a life-saving good and then charge whatever they want. Millions of people can't afford that.

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