Life and Death vs. Profit

Call me a cynic but it is my belief that there are certain things that should not be left up to free market forces, most importantly crucial health care issues. While the market can usually be relied upon to create competition which typically produces superior products, this always requires a profit incentive. When it comes to curing fatal diseases, free market capitalism leaves much to be desired. Seriously, when was the last time we cured/eradicated a disease? Polio?

I have always believed that there is simply more motive to create drugs that will help people to “live” with disease than there is to actually get rid of the disease itself. Think about it, since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic the free market has given us a plethora of insanely expensive drugs that can keep a patient alive for years, but has made absolutely no progress toward eradicating the disease itself. It is all about profit and there is not very much to be had by getting rid of diseases like this.

So I was not at all surprised to read today that the federal chief of AIDS research has come out and said plainly that if a cure is to be found it will have to come from the Government.

In an unusually candid admission, the federal chief of AIDS research says he believes drug companies don’t have an incentive to create a vaccine for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit from it after the government develops one.

“If we look at the vaccine, HIV vaccine, we’re going to have an HIV vaccine. It’s not going to be made by a company,” Tramont said. “They’re dropping out like flies because there’s no real incentive for them to do it. We have to do it.”

“They will eventually – if it works, they won’t have to make that big investment. And they can make it and sell it and make a profit,” he said.

Of course this is the opinion of only one man, albeit one very visible and important man. I also have to admit that I am more apt to latch onto these comments because they agree with my point of view. But a couple questions beg to be asked. Does anyone believe that we should leave issues of life and death up to corporations whose collective goal is to maximize profit? Is it possible to create an incentive for these corporations to think beyond their bottom lines?

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