U.K. Labour Party Plans to Regulate Pharmaceutical Market, Lower Drug Prices

The U.K. Labour Party has pledged to reform the country’s pharmaceutical market by establishing a publicly owned generic drug manufacturer and expanding the government’s role in drug research and development. The policy would force private drug companies to keep their prices down in order to receive public research funding and create greater transparency about the true cost of medications.

“We will redesign the system to serve public health – not private wealth – using compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech. “We’ll tell the drugs companies that if they want public research funding, then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all.”

The party says it expects the industry to oppose these changes but hopes that an overall increase in research and development spending would deter drug manufacturers from leaving the U.K. market.

Free-market advocates like Kate Andrews, associate director of the Institute for Economic Affairs, argue that the plans will stifle innovation and ultimately hurt patients. “Removing all profit motive from health care is likely to worsen the problems that already exist in the [National Health Service]: rationing, limited patient choice, and the lack of innovation in the market for drugs and new treatment,” she said.

Sources: Reuters, September 24, 2019; The Independent, September 24, 2019.