Cure for a Chronic Dilemma
June 18, 2001
The editorial addressed the controversy surrounding the distribution of AIDS drugs to poor countries. The author noted that in the 1980s, drug makers who sold discounted vaccines in poor countries "got beaten up in Congress for this supposed discrimination against American children. . . . The drug companies now get beaten up for their failure to practice price discrimination," Mallaby wrote. "After a long period of stalling, the companies are inching back toward the old policy of tiered pricing. . . . As they offer these discounts, however, the drug companies know that 1982 can happen again: Someone may accuse them of anti-American prejudice."Adapted from:
"Having trumpeted their discounts, [the drug companies] are conducting dozens of negotiations over the precise terms in each country. . . . At some point in this public-relations nightmare the drug companies may abandon the whole idea of discounting, as they did in 1982. . . . This is where Yale's Lanjouw comes into the story. She has a formula for deciding which drugs should be sold at low prices in which markets, thereby removing this impossible burden from industry's shoulders."
Mallaby cited a proposal by Jenny Lanjouw, a Yale economist, that would require US drug companies to file for "foreign filing licenses" from the US Patent and Trademark Office before they file for patents abroad. "Lanjouw proposes that this filing include a promise not to restrain generic competition in countries below a specified level of income for a specified list of drugs. If the company later broke this promise, it would lose its patent," Mallaby explained. Calling the idea "beautifully simple," Mallaby in conclusion suggested that "Any member of Congress could prepare a bill amending US patent law, while similar legislation in a handful of other countries would cover the main centers of pharmaceutical research. And if Congress is asleep, maybe an enlightened drug firm will do some prodding."
06.18.01; Sebastian Mallaby
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.