- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2018


It may be hard to believe, but some conservatives are arguing that any conservative who supports a measure before Congress called the CREATES Act that would allow generic drug makers under certain circumstances to go to court to get their competitors to play by the rules are ideological sellouts too willing to jump into bed with liberals and greedy trial lawyers.

The issue is fairly obscure, but involves balancing the property interests of those who develop and bring modern drugs to the market against the public’s need for affordable health care.

Our patent laws provide protection for inventors and allow those who incur the risks and take the time to develop new drugs and other products to recover their costs and profit from their efforts; a major reason why men and women in our free society have invested their time and resources into making the United States the world leader in developing treatments for the diseases that have ravaged the planet for millennia.

After a certain period of time, however, major drug companies and developers lose this protection and others are able to essentially copy their work to create “generic” versions of brand-name drugs and bring them to market at vastly reduced prices. These “generics” make up an estimated 70 percent of all drugs prescribed today.

They must meet the same safety standards as the drugs they replace and to facilitate this, the drugs’ developers are required to allow generic manufacturers access to the brand name drugs once their patent protection has run out. The rules seem fair enough on their face, but the big drug companies that hold the patents do everything in their power to prevent or delay the ability of generic producers to bring their products to market, thus informally extending the monopoly they enjoyed before their patents ran their course.

As a result, Congress is considering allowing generic drug producers denied access to the samples from the original manufacture the big guys are required by law to give them, to go to court to get them to play by the rules. Opponents of this, including those who should know better, are characterizing the bill as a left-wing, tort lawyer driven attempt to victimize big drug companies and charging that, as such every conservative has what amounts to a moral obligation to oppose it.

One conservative group siding with Big Pharma notes snidely that Vermont’s liberal Sen. Patrick Leahy is an advocate of the bill, as if that’s all one needs to know. He is, but so are conservative Sen. Rand Paul and House Freedom Caucus head Mark Meadows. Does that make them sellouts? It’s just possible, though, that support or opposition to this particular proposal and on many others just doesn’t break down along purely ideological lines.

Politicians and activists alike often forget that an ideology that dictates an inflexible position on every issue big or small is more a straitjacket than a guide to responsible policymaking. That is not to say there aren’t some issues or policy questions that involve matters of principle that should never be compromised, but it’s hard to fathom how this is one of them or conceive of a situation where voters will rise up against their congressman for “selling out” on something like this.

The problem today is that as our politics become more and more tribal, every difference between Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives is characterized as a matter of principle. Public policy debates on even the most obscure proposals seem more and more to involve over the top rhetoric and twisted logic to fit the narrative that virtually every choice facing us as a matter of principle so important that it simply cannot be compromised.

The reasoning is often torturous and would be funny but for the way it handcuffs those not convinced that every choice they face represents an existential threat to the American way of life. It is understandable in a way that left-wing ideologues are prone to such reasoning, as Marxists and progressives seem to believe that there is a quasi-scientific answer to every problem from climate change to Donald Trump and that anyone who disagrees with either their analysis or prescriptions is either a fool or the enemy.

Conservatives, however, should know better; conservatism as properly understood is comprised of a set of notions and beliefs that are shaped by rationality, tradition and experience rather than set down in a book of rules from which no one can stray lest they be cast into the outer darkness.

There are arguments on both sides of this one, but to argue that whether one supports or opposes the measure can be used as an ideological litmus test is, well, absurd. The only litmus test a conservative who supports will fail is one administered by the managers of Big Pharma’s political action committees.

David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide