In our first episode, Thomas Pogge explains his proposal for dealing with the thorny intersection of public health, property rights, and poverty. As he sees it, the patent system doesn’t work as well for medicines as it does for, say, consumer electronics. Allowing an inventor a monopoly over her invention works well enough when that invention isn’t a life necessity. Sony and its collaborators can sink enormous funds into researching Blu-Ray discs because they expect consumers will pay for them. And Pfizer can spend a fortune creating Viagra, because it expects, rightly, that there’s a huge demand for that product.
But this kind of economic demand can deviate from social value when it comes to life-saving medications. An affliction like Chagas’ disease that is widespread in Central and South America, but relatively rare in North America, doesn’t generate the kind of worldwide economic demand that erectile dysfunction does, simply because its sufferers don’t have as much ability to pay. The aggregate economic demand for drugs to fight Chagas’ disease, or tuberculosis or malaria, isn’t sufficient to motivate firms to splash out on R&D.
Pogge is working feverishly to rectify this situation. He proposes a Health Impact Fund, which would allow anyone to register a drug for an effectiveness-based award in exchange for giving up monopoly profits. I’ll let him explain the details. You can listen to the show directly by clicking on the at the bottom of this post, or by subscribing to our podcast, which is linked to in the right-hand column.
Thomas Pogge is Professorial Fellow, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE); Professor, Yale University Philosophy Department; and Research Director, Oslo Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN). You can find more details about the Health Impact Fund at www.healthimpactfund.org. More information about Thomas Pogge is available at his Yale website: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~tp4/.
Click here to download (29:01, 29 mb, mp3), or click on the online media player below.