August 22, 2005
The public health community needs to "tap innovative social entrepreneurs" to address public health disparities between developed and developing nations because the world is "failing to meet the health needs of its poorest people," Victoria Hale, founder and CEO of the not-for-profit pharmaceutical development organization Institute for OneWorld Health, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Some Western pharmaceutical companies have decided against developing drugs for diseases that primarily affect the developing world because they "can't justify the enormous costs involved in turning them into therapies that won't return a profit," according to Hale. Therefore, nongovernmental organizations and international bodies should increase their efforts to deliver needed drugs by developing an approach to intellectual property rights that "encourages and protects innovation yet makes the advances of modern medicine" universally available, Hale says. Successful drug companies also should establish a "Peace Corps for pharmaceutical professionals" because none of the recent successes in drug development would have been possible "without shared research and the contributions of skilled volunteers from the pharmaceutical field," Hale writes. She adds that although public health care is primarily a governmental responsibility, "we need to encourage individuals and corporations to bring fresh ideas." Hale concludes, "We have the means to help millions of people attain better health and escape poverty. We'll get there faster by creating innovative solutions and making legal and logistical space for these approaches to flourish" (Hale, New York Times, 8/19).
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