U.K. Labour Party Proposes Expanding Government Regulation of Pharmaceutical Market

The opposition 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 compel private drug companies to keep their prices down to receive public research funding and would mandate 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 drug companies that if they want public research funding, they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all.”

The party said it expects the industry to oppose these changes; however, it hopes that the potential savings from this new plan would outweigh associated costs of its implementation. Also, an overall increase in research and development spending would likely deter drug manufacturers from leaving the U.K. market.

Free-market advocates such as Kate Andrews, associate director of the London-based 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.