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Fellows with Friedman

Federal Drug Policy: A Constant Failure

George Shultz

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

That is the opening sentence of a report issued last week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Both of us have signed on to this report. Why?

We believe that drug addiction is harmful to individuals, impairs health and has adverse societal effects. So we want an effective program to deal with this problem.

The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation's approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem.

The situation that confronts us today is dangerous. After 40 years of concentrating on one approach that has been unsuccessful, we should be willing to take a look at other ways of working to solve this pressing problem. As the global commission concludes: "Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now."”

Click here to read more.

Russ Roberts

Russ Roberts talks to Robin Feldman of the University of California Hastings College of Law and author of Drug Wars talks about her book. Roberts and Feldman explore the various ways that pharmaceutical companies try to reduce competition from generic drugs. The conversation includes a discussion of the Hatch-Waxman Act and the complicated world of patent protection.

The Hatch-Waxman Amendments established the approval pathway for generic drug products under which applicants can submit an abbreviated new drug application. While it achieved a balance by enacting patent term extensions and nonpatent-based market exclusivities, brand-name manufacturers realized that it was more profitable to find ways to improperly delay generic competition on older medicines than to invent new medicines.

Listen to the podcast here