A plea for open source pharmaceutical development

Stiglitz argues that the human cost of pharmaceutical intellectual property is exacted primarily from the developing world, which cannot afford current drugs and is blocked from developing or using generic alternatives. Meanwhile, new drug development targets very few developing world diseases, primarily because their victims are poor and cannot support the cost of the research involved. It’s at this point that the editorial gets somewhat confused; it’s not clear whether Stiglitz views the pharmaceutical companies as embodiments of the problem, or passive victims of economic reality. He slams the companies for spending more on advertising than research, and more on lifestyle drugs than those that target diseases. In the same paragraph, however, Stiglitz notes that “poor people cannot afford drugs, and drug companies make investments that yield the highest returns,” and suggests that even a company he praises as socially responsible is helpless in the face of that economic reality.

Read this article from Ars Technica. Original Editorial from bmj.com.

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