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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Abstract

WEBBER, David  and  KREMER, Michael. Perspectives on stimulating industrial research and development for neglected infectious diseases. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2001, vol.79, n.8, pp. 735-741. ISSN 0042-9686.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0042-96862001000800009.

This paper summarizes recent thinking on stimulating industrial research and development (R & D) for neglected infectious diseases and argues that it is critical to enlarge the value of the market for medicines and vaccines through, for example, global purchase funds. The most important economic barriers to R & D are that the commercial markets are small and that individual purchasing power is severely limited, even though the number of patients may be very large. Since R & D costs for all diseases are high, this means that returns will not cover investments. Various mechanisms have been proposed to address this economic imbalance (accepting that other barriers will also need to be considered). Economic devices which reduce the costs of R & D - push factors - are useful, but our review suggests that high costs do not explain the shortfall in R & D. Economic devices which address the lack of viable markets have been termed pull factors and are designed to create or secure a market, thereby improving the likelihood of a return on investments. One pull mechanism is the commitment in advance to purchase a product that meets specified criteria, if invented. The purchase-precommitment approach has a number of attractive features. For example, it only rewards successful outputs rather than supporting research that may not succeed. Pull programmes effectively mimic the market and lead companies to favour lines of attack that they believe will lead to marketable products. Overall, a combination of push and pull mechanisms is likely to represent an attractive approach. This could combine, for example, increased funding for public laboratories, public-private partnerships in R & D, purchases of underutilized existing products, and a precommitment to purchase new drugs and vaccines when developed.

Keywords : Communicable diseases [drug therapy]; Orphan drug production; Drugs, Investigational [supply and distribution]; Drug industry; Motivation; Research [economics]; Private sector; Financial support; Cost-benefit analysis; Patents.

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