Last week I spoke with Yale Professor Thomas Pogge about his proposal for a "Health Impact Fund." The mission is to provide incentives to develop and distribute drugs that will achieve major global health impacts. Pogge sees the current patent system as valuable, but lacking. The problem is that the most innovative pharmaceutical companies find it very difficult to make money from treatments that are focused on the problems of the developing world. Although helpful, charity donations of drugs are typically insufficient and lead to the problem of parallel imports.
The solution proposed by Pogge is to form a global fund and pay innovator companies based on the global health impact of their new treatment. The more "quality adjusted life years" (QALYs) saved, the more money a company gets. The intent of this reward scheme is to focus the innovators on developing and distributing treatments that will have the greatest worldwide health impact.
The system is intended simply as an additional incentive layer. A drug developer may obtain patents as usual. However, in order to qualify for the program, the patentee would agree to sell its drugs at cost and guarantee access.
Pogge's models suggest that the fund would have a major impact if funded with $6 billion annually.
- HIF Book is online
- I like the idea of aligning economic interests of the innovators with a health impact. If structured correctly, innovators will like this program because it does not take away the option of simply using the traditional patent system. The problems are primarily logistical: who pays the $6b?; how do you measure health impact?; how do you prevent gaming the system (by, for example, only using the program when the patents are likely to be challenged)?; etc.
- President Bush's "Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief" is set to spend about $6 billion on global AIDS treatment this year. [Link]