Last Thursday, State Rep. Margo L. Davidson, a Delco Democrat who represents Upper Darby, was charged with theft of state funds after she allegedly falsified her expense reimbursements between 2015 and 2019. She resigned the next day.
The first part of this is sad, but unsurprising to observers of the political scene in the Philadelphia area. Crooked politicians are as common here as uncollected garbage. But Philadelphians may be shocked at the second part. Apparently, when politicians outside the city are indicted for felonies, they resign!
According to a press release from the office of Attorney General (and gubernatorial hopeful) Josh Shapiro, a grand jury found that Davidson “requested overnight expenses for nights she did not spend in Harrisburg, and received personal reimbursements from the Commonwealth for expenses that had been paid for by her campaign. The Representative has also been charged with Election Code violations arising from failure to report campaign finance information, as well as soliciting a witness to lie during the course of the investigation.” Davidson waived her preliminary hearing and already agreed to repay nearly $7,000.
It was not the lawmaker’s first brush with the law while in office: she was evicted from her campaign office in 2016 for failing to pay rent and was charged in 2018 with fleeing the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license in her state-issued car.
These new accusations are serious and the AG’s office collected enough evidence to convince a grand jury to move forward with the case. That was enough for Davidson to be shamed into resigning her seat, allowing a special election for some hopefully non-criminal representative to take her place.
That is what a normal person would do: feel shame at being caught in repeated criminal acts. But that emotion seems to disappear when one enters the chambers of Philadelphia City Council, where two of the 17 members are currently under federal indictment. Neither shows any sign of leaving his seat.
Bobby Henon, a Democrat representing the 6th district, was charged in 2019 as a part of a 116-count indictment of him and electricians union president Johnny Dougherty (brother of Democratic state supreme court justice Kevin Dougherty) for embezzlement, theft, wire fraud and other charges. Henon ran for reelection later that year and remains in office. His trial was repeatedly delayed during the pandemic and is now scheduled for October of this year.
Kenyatta Johnson, a Democrat representing the 2nd district, was indicted in 2020 for racketeering, wire fraud, tax fraud, and other crimes in connection with allegedly taking bribes in a zoning matter in his district. He, too, is still awaiting trial and still collecting his $135,900-a-year paycheck as a member of city government.
Being indicted is not the same as being found guilty, it is true, but it requires more than mere accusations or innuendo. There is serious evidence against both men and their accomplices. Moreover, while conducting their legal defense – and raising funds to do so – these men are clearly not doing their jobs as city councilmembers. (Henon is also employed by the electricians’ union at $73,131 per year for a job that seemingly requires no work.)
Elected representatives owe their constituents a full day’s work and a reputation that is free from corruption. The accused criminals in City Council should do the bare minimum required of a decent person and resign their seats.
Does Congress really want to stop medical innovation?
Congress selected a perfect clickbait title for its recent hearing: “Treating the Problem: Addressing Anticompetitive Conduct and Consolidation in Health Care Markets.” But the hearing itself was long on rhetoric and short on facts.
Several congresspersons and witnesses sounded the alarm about pharmaceutical companies patenting new, updated versions of older drugs. They accused these companies of “product hopping” or “evergreening” – essentially abusing the patent laws to extend terms of drug patents and prevent cheaper generics from reaching the market.
These accusations stem from a misunderstanding of how innovation happens incrementally – and how the patent system is designed to protect precisely that sort of innovation.
Incremental innovation is so commonplace and familiar that it usually goes unnoticed. No one blinks an eye when Apple launches version 12 of the iPhone, when Microsoft releases version 4 of its Surface laptop, or when Honda unveils a new model of its Odyssey minivan. These new versions of pre-existing products all have new features or uses, which were created from continuing investments in research and development and secured by intellectual property rights.
Just like other companies, drug firms also refine and update their products after the first versions go to market. These ongoing investments in research and development sometimes produce a new drug. Other times, they reveal a new innovative use, such as when a drug originally approved to treat breast cancer is found to shrink other types of tumors.
These companies are doing the exact same thing as Apple, Microsoft, and Honda – creating new, incremental innovations through their productive efforts.
Just like the patents on the 5G chip that replaced the 4G chip in an iPhone, or the patents on the self-driving technologies that replace the old cruise controls in a car, any improvements to an existing drug can be patented only if they represent a new contribution over and above the prior invention. This is a core requirement in patent law: all inventions must be new, useful, and an improvement over what came before.
When a drug company receives a new patent for a new improvement to an existing medicine, it does not extend any pre-existing patent on the original drug. The old patents expire on schedule. The new patent does not impact the ability of other manufacturers to produce cheap generic copies of the original drug.
This is the reason why 89 percent of all drug prescriptions in the United States are filled with generics. In fact, we have one of the highest generic utilization rates of any country in the world.
The vibrant healthcare market is the best evidence for the fact that patents don’t impede competition. Conditions like diabetes, hepatitis, and many cancers, which were death sentences several decades ago, are now manageable conditions with multiple treatments.
If lawmakers weaken patent rights based on mistaken rhetoric, they will stifle this medical innovation. Patients will suffer. And Congress will have violated the ancient maxim in healthcare: First, do no harm.
Adam Mossoff is a patent law expert at George Mason University, and Chair of the Forum for Intellectual Property and a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.