I read the blog post by Azamanam about a proposed way to reinvent the pharmaceutical industry, given as a TEDTalk by Thomas Pogge, with increasing incredulity. If you have not, go read Azamanam’s piece.
The fellow appears to have absolutely no idea how the real pharmaceutical companies work. Importantly, he doesn’t seem to realize what it takes to discover and, importantly, develop new drugs. It is a hugely costly endeavor, fraught with unexpected difficulties and can fail at the last hurdle. In fact, it can fail after the last hurdle when further exposure to the population at large reveals new side effects. Given the enormous expenses and the number of projects that just never make it to market, I find it entirely unsurprising that pharmaceutical companies charge so much more for a drug than the cost for making it. Because you are not paying for the costs of the goods inside the pill, but also for the research, effort and time that made that particular combination of chemicals possible.