Question


In countries in which new-life sustaining drugs cannot be patented, such drugs are sold at widely affordable prices; those same drugs, where patented, command premium prices because the patents shield patent-holding company from competitors. These facts show that future access to new life sustaining drugs can be improved if the practice of granting patents on newly developed life-sustaining drugs were to be abolished everywhere.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

(Because of copyrights, the complete official question is not copied here. You can access the question here: GMAT Club)

Difficulty: Medium

Accuracy: 78%

Based on: 2515 sessions

Solution


The Story

In countries in which new-life sustaining drugs cannot be patented, such drugs are sold at widely affordable prices; – Certain specific drugs are sold at affordable prices in countries in which they can’t be patented.

those same drugs, where patented, command premium prices because the patents shield patent- holding company from competitors. – Same drugs are sold at higher prices in countries in which patents apply. The reason? The patents keep potential competitors at bay.

These facts show that future access to new life-sustaining drugs can be improved if the practice of granting patents on newly developed life-sustaining drugs were to be abolished everywhere.
‘These facts’:
1. in countries in which patents do not apply, the drugs are affordable,
2. and in countries where patents apply, the drugs are more expensive.

Based on these facts, if patenting of such drugs is abolished everywhere, access to them can be improved.

Author’s logic:
Drugs are significantly cheaper in countries in which they can’t be patented than in countries in which they can (basis).
Therefore, if such drugs are not granted patent at all, they can become more accessible (main point).

Gap(s) in logic:
(I’m using my real-world understanding of patents here)
Why are patents granted in the first place? To incentivize companies to spend time and money on research and development. If a competitor could copy a drug and compete right away, manufacturers would not have as much incentive to invest in research.

Gap: What if pharmaceutical companies are not incentivized enough to work on new drugs if they can’t patent and sell at a premium?

Question Stem

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

Prediction:
Pharma companies will stop research on new drugs if they can’t sell them at a premium.

Answer choice analysis


Answer Choice: A

Incorrect

Selected by: 3%

In countries in which such drugs cannot be patented manufacturers selling non-patented drugs are anyway profitable. So, these companies can continue to manufacture and sell. That is something we were anyway not wondering about.
But what about manufacturers in countries with patent laws? Would those guys remain profitable if the patents were removed? Can we extrapolate from what this option says that manufacturers in countries with patents would remain profitable even without patents? We cannot. We do not know whether and how the cost structures vary in the two different sets of countries.
In fact, this answer choice mildly indicates that drug manufacturers can generate profits even if patents are not applicable. And thus, if anything, this answer mildly strengthens the argument.


Answer Choice: B

Incorrect

Selected by: 2%

Learning this new piece of information does not impact my confidence in the argument. I learn about a typical characteristic of patent-free countries. However, can overall access by improved by removing patents? I do not learn anything new along those lines. No impact.


Answer Choice: C

Incorrect

Selected by: 10%

Statement: In some countries, certain drug-manufacturing processes can be patented even if the drugs can’t be.
Ok, so it seems that there is an alternative to patenting drugs – the drug-manufacturing process can be patented instead in some countries. And patenting the process could have a similar impact on prices as patenting the drug itself. Thus this answer choice does in fact mildly weaken the argument too.

However, the answer choice mentions the word ‘some’. Basically: in at least one country the process can be patented even if the drugs cannot be. So, one reason why the impact is very mild is because of that word. How many countries allow process-patenting? We don’t know.

Moreover, the answer choice only talks about patenting the manufacturing process. Competitors could still make the same drug using a different process.

This answer choice mildly weakens the argument.


Answer Choice: D

Correct

Selected by: 78%

Pharma companies can afford the research only if patents allow them to earn high profits. ‘Only if’. So, if patents are not there to enable pharma companies to earn high profits, pharmaceutical companies won’t be able to afford the research. If they can’t afford the research, they’ll probably not conduct the research. If they do not conduct such research, access to such drugs will reduce.

This answer significantly weakens the argument.


Answer Choice: E

Incorrect

Selected by: 7%

So, countries that allow patents take certain steps to avoid import from countries that do not grant such patents.
So what would happen to access if patenting is abolished? Perhaps then import would be allowed. This answer choice goes in the opposite direction of what we’re looking for. If anything, it strengthens the argument that abolishing the practice of granting patents will improve access.

Additional Notes


This is a fairly unique CR question in that two answer choices actually weaken the argument. Even though the question stem typically uses language like ‘weakens the most’, in most CR questions only one answer choice would weaken and the other four would not weaken the argument at all. This question is an example in which we had two answer choices that weaken, and we had to choose on the basis of which one weakens the most.

SC note: Notice the wording ‘afford the research that go into the development’ in option D. The plural form of the verb ‘go’ indicates that ‘research’ in this context is plural.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

Anish Passi

GMAT Coach

With over a decade of GMAT training experience, top 1 percentile scores on the CAT and GMAT, and a passion for teaching, I’d like to believe I am quite qualified to be a GMAT coach. GMAT is learnable, and I help students master the GMAT through a process-oriented approach based on logic and common sense. I offer private tutoring and live-online classroom courses. My sessions are often sprinkled with real-world examples, references to movies, and jokes that only I find funny. You’ve been warned 🙂

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