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How to fix health care? Regulate drug makers

As a retired physician who practiced 47 years, I read with sadness the commentary, “Cause of death: High drug prices” (June 4). The writer describes the case of a patient who delayed getting expensive medications until she got her Social Security check. That delay caused the patient to die.

Today, the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma) has become the villain of heath care. It was not always that way. In 1955, when Jonas Salk developed the Salk vaccine for the prevention of polio, he did not patent the vaccine. He wanted to allow for the immediate unlimited distribution of the vaccine to the public. It was estimated that had Salk patented his invention, he would have made $8 billion (in 1955 dollars).

Big Pharma argues that medications are so expensive because they need the money for research and development. Not true. Big Pharma spends more money on advertising and the promotion of medications than on research and development of medications. Big Pharma currently makes 20 percent annual profits, the largest of any major industry.

The solution to the pharmaceutical crisis is to make the pharmaceutical industry a regulated public utility such as the gas and electric company. Big Pharma would be entitled to make a reasonable profit, but not an obscene profit and no more patients would die because they could not afford their medications.

Dr. Leon Reinstein, Baltimore

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