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Valeant Pharmaceuticals essentially eliminated its research budget to focus on buying small drug companies and the medicines they held patents for, rather than try to develop new drugs or improve those they already produced. Once the purchase of a smaller company was completed, Valeant would drastically increase the prices of drugs that company had produced. As one example, in 2013, Valeant purchased Merck Pharmaceuticals and gained the rights to the drug, Syprine—a drug required for people with Wilson’s disease, a rare copper allergy. Without this drug, their bodies are unable to process copper and they die. While produced by Merck, patients could obtain the drug for $1,395/year in 2013 ($116.25 per month). Valeant increased the price of Syprine to $289,000/year by 2018 ($24,083.33 per month). In accordance with their price-gouging plan, most of these costs were picked up by insurance companies, who then passed on those costs to the public through premium increases. There is nothing illegal about the Valeant’s actions under current law. Another bonus? In 2010, Valeant merged with Canadian drug maker Biovail. The merger ensures that Valeant pays no U.S. taxes—instead it pays a smaller Canadian tax rate. This is only one example of a practice that is quite common in the pharmaceutical industry.
Why aren’t such activities considered criminal under U.S. law? Is there anything to stop Congress from criminalizing or, at the very least, limiting such practices through legislation? If not, then why hasn’t Congress acted? Would you criminalize such activities? If so, describe the punishment(s) you would use. If not, explain why.