No, Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes and West Virginia University Law Professor Kevin Outterson never have developed a life-saving drug. They're taxpayer-paid lawyers, of course, about the furthest thing from risk-taking scientists or drug entrepreneurs.

But Hughes and Outterson aren't ones to let their limited experience stand in the way of their propensity to know it all. In fact, the duo are cocksure that they know more about the pharmaceutical business than ... well ... the pharmaceutical business itself.

That's why they're pushing so hard for West Virginia to adopt price controls on drugs. Sure, capitalism and the market say one thing. But these two -- they know bettter. Really.

"Nationwide, $280 billion is spent on pharmaceuticals. We suspect more of that is on the marketing, sales and administrative costs than on research and development," recently explained Outersson, fond of playing make-believe drug executive from his Morgantown ivory tower. "That's the reason why we're paying the higher prices, theoretically."

"Theoretically," of course, is the lair of pampered college professors whose lives rarely resemble what the rest of us call "reality." That's the place where government controls on price never work because they always result in a reduction of quantity supplied.

Those of you old enough to remember waiting in line at the pump during gasoline price controls in the 1970s remember what comes next -- a shortage. The concept is basic supply and demand -- businesses won't supply as much of a product at a lower price as they will at a higher price. Hope as "theoretically" as dreamy socialists might, there's literally no way around it -- just ask your Canadian friends about their epic (but free!) trips to the ER.

Even worse in this case, is that the long-term impact of imposing such a policy on drugmakers would be plain catastrophic to progress.

Those much-demonized "profits" made by U.S. pharmaceutical companies -- the best in the world, mind you -- are the only thing incentivizing investors to put their money behind the costly drug research, as opposed to a business building fancier televisions or faster cars.

Paying "high" prices for drugs is far better than never having the chance to buy those drugs in the first place. If we hope to see a cure for cancer in our lifetimes, then we should think twice before we let a bunch of lawyers meddle in our medicine cabinets.




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