Excessive Drug Pricing as an Antitrust Violation

Posted by Social Science Research Network

Excessive Drug Pricing as an Antitrust Violation

By Harry First (New York University)

It is nearly four years since Martin Shkreli bought an off-patent drug named Daraprim and raised its price overnight by nearly 5500%. Public outcry was intense and Shkreli became the poster-child for excessive drug pricing. But his drug was not the only example of excessive price increases. Indeed, the excessively high prices of numerous pharmaceutical drugs has become a matter of intense public policy debate. High prices have been condemned by presidential candidates, by members of congress, by the President, and by federal bureaucrats. Effective federal action has not materialized, so states have tried to fill the gap. So far, though, either the proposals have made little sense or, even if sensible and adopted, have had little effect.

One might think that antitrust would be on the list of public policy tools to wield against high pharmaceutical prices, but it’s not. This is because of the conventional wisdom that the antitrust laws do not forbid high prices simpliciter. In this Article I argue that we are not condemned to that result. Closer examination of prior efforts to deal with excessive prices in other areas of the economy shows a willingness to take on excessively high prices, at least where the seller is exploiting what might be a temporary power to raise prices of much-needed products. Further, closer examination of antitrust case la


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