Megan McArdle on “Me-Too” Drugs

I’ve never really understood the objections to “me-too” drugs. Somehow, the topic of health care makes otherwise sensible people forget everything they ever knew about economics and start spouting Victorian-era Socialist rhetoric about wasteful competition and superfluous duplication. These same people would think you were crazy if you started ranting about how many societal resources are wasted by having three kinds of unsalted butter available in the supermarket. And yet, this is the same argument.

Nonetheless, it does seem to bother a lot of people that we have more than one SSRI or anti-platelet drug on the market. In their telling, companies barely bother to do research anymore; they mostly just wait until someone else discovers a drug, and then they generate a cheap knockoff, like those guys on the street corner in Chinatown.

Full article by McArdle on “me-too” drugs.

Comments (4)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    Marcia Angell has made this erroneous argument for years. There are numerous reasons Me-Too drugs benefit society. 1) Not everyone responds to a given drug in the same way. Only having one drug would cause millions of people to not have a drug that works for them 2) Most scientific advances are incremental. Me-Too drugs tend to be slightly different or better than the original. At the very least the effort to reverse engineer provides the opportunity for other companies to improve the product 3) Competition among drugs from the same class holds prices down better than one monopoly drug. 4) Research on Me-Too drugs isn’t necessarily taking away from original research. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the additional jobs provided by Me-Too drug research probably have beneficial spillover effects to drug research in general.

  2. Erin O. says:

    Love Megan McCardle.`

  3. Brian Williams. says:

    Megan McCardle and Devon Herrick would make excellent witnesses at a Congressional hearing about this topic.

  4. Ken says:

    Hooray for Megan. Great post.