Viewpoint: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
In October of 2015, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) released an open letter with the title Make Medicines for People Not for Profit. The letter – now signed by a wide range of academics and researchers, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz – issues a call for a “global research and development (R&D) agreement to ensure access to affordable vaccines, medicines and life-saving technologies for all.”
The group argues that a primary reliance on the patent system leads to “exorbitant prices” that “endanger public health budgets and impoverish families” while not leading to the types of innovations that address important medical needs. As an alternative to the patent system, they argue for a system based on “principles of open access, open knowledge… and fair price.”
Among other ideas, they offer “prize funds, patent pools and collaborative approaches” as models to incentivize the appropriate development of medicines. While seemingly well-intended, the arguments presented in the letter are misguided and inconsistent with both the evidence and prevailing theory in health economics.
- Health Care