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Innovation policy is hard. Getting it right requires balancing incentives for developers, consumer access, rewards for later innovators, safety concerns, and other factors. This balance is vitally important and wickedly difficult—even when it’s the focus of concerted, careful, informed effort. How well should we expect it to go when innovation policy is made by accident? Enter The Accidental Innovation Policymakers, an illuminating new project by Professor Rachel Sachs. Sachs persuasively shows how Congress has repeatedly made substantial changes to innovation policy, seemingly without talking about, seriously considering, or even recognizing that it is doing so. There’s an asymmetry to this accident, and it favors industry. When Congress wants to directly promote innovation, it explicitly gives rewards to the biomedical industry. When Congress focuses on other matters such as patient finances and happens to increase the rewards for biomedical innovation by embiggening the market, no one mentions it. But when Congress, focusing on patient finances, tries to rein in prices and thus decrease prices for industry, drugmakers scream bloody murder and claim that the engines of progress will grind to a halt. This legislative dynamic is off-kilter. It demands understanding and options for fixes. Sachs provides both.


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