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I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Take

The Wall Street Journal

My father, Norman Latker, was patent counsel for the National Institutes of Health in the 1960s and ’70s, and among the principal architects of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act (“Team Biden Looks for an Excuse to Impose Drug Price Controls” by Merrill Matthews, op-ed, April 27). He drafted the “march-in rights” outlining strict criteria that government had to satisfy to seize intellectual-property rights from inventors. It now appears the government intends to circumvent his safeguards, creating a path to impose price controls on drugs that merely don’t align with its sense of acceptable pricing. My father would have been appalled.

Bayh-Dole’s purpose was to afford inventors, rather than government agencies, patent rights for novel advances. “Market forces do a far better job of disseminating such inventions to society than government bureaucracies,” my father wrote. The bipartisan bill’s passage unleashed a torrent of new investment into research and development, sparking a biotech revolution.

The march-in rights were a remedy of last resort for corporations unwilling or unable to bring advances to market. They were never intended as a method for price control and definitely not meant to obviate the profit incentive for drugmakers.

These companies have worked tirelessly to bring drugs to a complex global marketplace. They deserve public thanks and decent future profit margins without fear of corruption of their intellectual property rights. Businesses and universities should be watchful. It’s a slippery slope once government decides it can do a better job with intellectual property than you can.

Miriam Latker Sell, M.D.

It is curious that it required 40 years for politicians and government bureaucrats to discover that medical and other scientific research is entirely the result of government money, not the money or talents of those scientists and firms that actually achieved the discovery, manufacture and implementation of “miraculous” new treatments and therapies. Their delusion that government must be the source of all progress and virtue tells us much more about them than it does about modern medicine. Those who cherish medical progress must determine our fate, not those who seek only to seize it.

Richard E. Ralston
Americans for Free Choice in Medicine
Newport Beach, CA