Patents, Markets, and Medicine in a Just Society

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Medical care is a particular flash point in the combustible mixture of patents and non-market considerations confronting policymakers. On the one hand, the marketoriented patent jurisprudence dominant in the United States has a very limited vocabulary for addressing some of the non-market considerations (e.g. distributive justice, liberty) raised by biomedical patents. On the other hand, people can languish and die if they don't get the right medical care. While the typical response is for demand-side institutions, such as a health insurance system supported in significant part by public subsidies, to address non-market considerations, even expanded versions of these insurance subsidies won't provide a complete answer. Prof. Rai discusses this public policy conundrum—and how both non-market and market values can be promoted by narrowly targeted use of supply-side alternatives to patents.

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