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A solution to the unfair global distribution of pharmaceutical products

By Josh Wells

This article is a presentation of an alternative system to the global distribution of pharmaceutical products with the intention of being able to effectively meet the needs of the third world, which the current system fails to do.

Before presenting the alternative system it is necessary to have an understanding of the current system and more importantly the cause of its failings.

The cost of researching drugs is incredibly high and as a consequence of this firms need to be able to protect their drugs when they are successful in order to make a profit. The soaring profits that can be made are the main incentive to create these drugs in the first place.

New pharmaceutical creations are protected by something called TRIPS which allows these firms to sell their products at any price they like and make sure that no one else can sell them thus allowing them to charge very high prices. However, in doing this the products become unattainable to many people in poorer countries.

If these drugs were sold at the price of production they would be available to many more people in poorer countries. So the question is whilst these drugs exist that will save lives, how can we create a system where there is an incentive for the pharmaceutical companies to sell these drugs to those who would benefit most but can’t afford it whilst the companies themselves make money?

Enter Thomas Pogge and his proposed solution- the Health Impact Fund (HIF)-  which he believes will create an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs for the poorest people in the world.

The HIF is funded by governments; they would put 0.03% of their Gross National Income in to the fund to insure it is of a reasonable size. Pharmaceutical companies would then register with the fund and then get a percentage of the fund depending upon how many lives they save and the increase in standard of living which results from the drugs they supply.

The fund will thus create a market for saving lives. Therefore instead of pharmaceutical companies focusing on the creation of luxury drugs for the first world there will be an incentive to create drugs for those who are most in need.

Global justice rarely gets the media attention it warrants but when charity events, such as Comic Relief in the UK, happen to help the third world they don’t do nearly enough. You can strongly argue that the HIF would do much more for the people in the third world than the history of global justice charity events.

This is truly a global revolution waiting to happen the only question that remains is when shall it happen?

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