Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach

June 15, 2017

Cambridge, MA - In a newly-published paper in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Quentin Palfrey highlights practical strategies for how pharmaceutical companies can have a profound impact on humanitarian outcomes without undermining profitability of their ventures. The paper, entitled Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach, was produced in connection with the Global Access in Action project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.

“By adopting sensible approaches that have been used successfully by other companies, pharmaceutical firms can increase access to medicines, conduct critical research and development, and continue to be profitable,” Palfrey argues. “Under some circumstances, there are win-win approaches that can help the world’s poorest afford lifesaving medicines, allow philanthropic funders to have greater impact with limited budgets, and allow pharmaceutical programs to run corporate social responsibility programs that cost less – or even make a profit – while increasing impact,” says Palfrey.

The paper argues that pharmaceutical companies should consider expanding three approaches to increasing access to lifesaving medicines for the poor and incentivizing R&D into diseases that primarily affect the global poor. First, the paper explores non-exclusive voluntary licensing partnerships between branded and generic companies as a strategy for distributing lifesaving drugs in the world’s poorest markets. Second, the paper considers various pricing strategies and argues that intra-country price discrimination – charging different prices for similar products targeted at different populations in the same market – can be an effective way of distributing lifesaving drugs to poor communities in countries that have both rich and poor populations. Finally, the paper encourages private firms to take further steps to share the fruits of their research with research collaboratives that seek to develop cures for diseases that primarily affect poor populations, and for which there is often insufficient research funding.

“Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach”,Quentin A. Palfrey, Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Volume XXIV, Issue 2. Winter 2017.

About the Author

Quentin Palfrey is co-Director of the Global Access in Action project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, as well as the Executive Director of J-PAL North America, an anti-poverty research center at MIT. A lawyer by training, Palfrey served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy during President Obama’s first term, where he played a key role in the launch of the Patents for Humanity program and was the lead White House advisor on the America Invents Act, a major piece of patent reform legislation that was signed into law in 2011.

About the Global Access in Action Project

Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines, and alternative incentives for the development of medical treatments for underserved populations. Improving access and promoting socially beneficial innovation are key strategies for combatting the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations. Global Access in Action is led by Palfrey along with Professors William Fisher and Mark Wu of Harvard Law School.

About the GAiA Brown Bag Series

The GAiA brown bag series, "Conversations in Global Health, Innovation & the Digital World," is a collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute which will facilitate discussion among researchers, scholars, practitioners, and others engaged in the development of legal and policy frameworks that govern innovation and global commercialization of medicines.

About the Berkman Klein Center

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. A diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners, technologists, policy experts, and advocates, we seek to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact in the public interest. Our faculty, fellows, staff and affiliates conduct research, build tools and platforms, educate others, form bridges and facilitate dialogue across and among diverse communities. More information at www.cyber.harvard.edu.

Last updated

June 16, 2017