Friday, October 23, 2015

A cure for sociopathic capitalism

Last month, sociopathic hedge fund trader Martin Shkreli appalled the world by buying the rights to produce an essential medicine and then hiking the price by 5,000 percent. But there was a problem with his plan: the medicine, daraprim, has long been out of patent - meaning that anyone could make a generic version. And now someone has, and they're selling it for the pre-2010 price of $1 a pill. Its a clear message to the hedge fund business model of profit gouging price increases to fund debt-driven acquisitions - and hopefully it will mean Shkreli loses a fortune.

But while its worked in this case, its not a generic cure. Many essential medicines are still under patent - meaning there is no market solution to hedge fund sociopathy. But in the event that a price gouger hikes the prices of an essential but patented medicine, then there is a clear role for governments to step in to save lives by manufacturing it themselves. Unfortunately, the National Party has just signed away our right to do this via the TPP. And with hedge funds and pharmaceutical companies becoming ever more grasping in their attempts to extort money from the sick, we may be paying the cost in human lives sooner rather than later.