Not so fast. Turns out, yet again that public enterprise is the real innovator:
The single biggest source of medical research funding, not just in the United States but in the entire world, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Last year, it spent more than $28 billion on research, accounting for about one-third of the total dollars spent on medical research and development in this country (and half the money spent at universities). The majority of that money pays for the kind of basic research that might someday unlock cures for killer diseases like Alzheimer's, aids, and cancer. No other country has an institution that matches the NIH in scale. And that is probably the primary explanation for why so many of the intellectual breakthroughs in medical science happen here.Market forces can actually squelch innovation: A longstanding drug treatment for metabolic disorders has been discovered to be one of the most exciting potential cancer treatments to come down the pike in years, but big pharma refuses to do the clinical trials necessary to put it in the treatment pipeline.
Because it's a longstanding drug treatment it can't be patented as a cancer treatment and make them billions - in fact the more effective it turns out to be the more it might cut into the profits from the compounds - most much more toxic and very possibly much less effective - that they can patent, so cancer victims suffer and die because the profit motive discourages innovation.
It's not the only example either. When a cheap cancer drug in really cheap quantities turned out to be a cure for macular degeneration, the drug company behind it tried to stop the affordable treatment of blindness so that they could split off the compound responsible and sell it for a hundred times more.
So another of the dwindling arguments for profit driven medicine down. Next?