Summary of Why Are Drug Prices So High? Investigating the Outdated US Patent System

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Why Are Drug Prices So High? Investigating the Outdated US Patent System summary
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The US patent system is long overdue for reform, says health justice advocate Priti Krishtel. As it stands, the system bars the public from influencing policies and actions that directly affect individuals and even put human lives at risk. In a candid TED Talk, Krishtel explains which reforms would improve and modernize the patent system and protect basic human rights. “This is not about scientists versus activists, or invention versus protection,” explains Krishtel, the daughter of a pharmaceutical scientist. “This is about people, our quest to invent and our right to live.”

About the Speaker

Health justice advocate Priti Krishtel is the daughter of a pharmaceutical scientist who held multiple patents.



The archaic US patent system allows drug firms to manipulate patent protections. As a result, drug prices are unaffordable for many patients who need treatment.

Drug prices are escalating at the cost of human lives, even in affluent nations. Between 2014 and 2019, 34 million Americans lost a relative or a friend to a treatable condition simply because the cost of treatment was too steep. What’s more, inflated drug costs are driving families to homelessness and bankrupting senior citizens. While many factors account for surging prices, part of the problem is an archaic US patent system whose influence extends worldwide.

The founders of the US patent system sought to encourage and reward innovation by offering a temporary, 14-year monopoly. Today, the law allows for a 20-year monopoly. However, corporations employ lawyers and lobbyists whose sole focus is to prolong and aggressively protect patents – typically for at least 40 years. Further, the number of drug patents issued by the US Patent office doubled between 2006...

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