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Keywords:

  • diseases;
  • drugs;
  • health;
  • human rights;
  • incentives;
  • justice;
  • medicine;
  • patents;
  • pharmaceutical research;
  • poverty;
  • public goods;
  • TRIPS

Abstract: One-third of all human lives end in early death from poverty-related causes. Most of these premature deaths are avoidable through global institutional reforms that would eradicate extreme poverty. Many are also avoidable through global health-system reform that would make medical knowledge freely available as a global public good. The rules should be redesigned so that the development of any new drug is rewarded in proportion to its impact on the global disease burden (not through monopoly rents). This reform would bring drug prices down worldwide close to their marginal cost of production and would powerfully stimulate pharmaceutical research into currently neglected diseases concentrated among the poor. Its feasibility shows that the existing medical-patent regime (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights—TRIPS—as supplemented by bilateral agreements) is severely unjust—and its imposition a human-rights violation on account of the avoidable mortality and morbidity it foreseeably produces.