U.N. High-Level Panel’s Recommendations Would Reduce, Not Increase, Global Access To Medicines

Wall Street Journal: Economic Nonsense From the U.N. on Drugs
Tomas J. Philipson, economist at the University of Chicago and a founder of Precision Health Economics

“…The plan the panel unveiled last week [by a U.N. High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines] … boils down to an attack on intellectual property laws. Among other recommendations, panelists urged governments worldwide to restrict which medicines can be patented; codify procedures for breaking companies’ patents; and subject trade agreements between sovereign countries to bureaucratic ‘public health impact assessments.’ … [S]uch measures are likely to reduce, not increase, public access to important medicines. … Patents create an ecosystem for investors and researchers to develop new medicines. … This innovation ecosystem cuts the price of better health; it doesn’t raise it. … By asking biopharmaceutical firms to continue investing in research, donate their discoveries, and forgo profits, the U.N. is asking to free-ride off shareholders of these firms to pay for the world’s altruistic desire to provide medicine. It would be far more effective to expand incentives and rewards for innovators who improve health in the developing world. Convincing developed and developing nations to invest more in the health care of the poor would go a long way toward better addressing the real barriers to access…” (9/16).