Kevin Outterson and I have an op-ed in the New York Times today on combating antimicrobial resistance. Here’s a snippet:
Congress needs to think bigger if it wants to fix the broken antibiotic business model. Although the patent system is good at producing new blood-pressure medications and cardiovascular drugs, it’s not the right fit for antibiotics. Because new antibiotics may be held in reserve for years, manufacturers can’t sell enough during the patent term to justify large research investments. Congress should instead reward manufacturers that bring a targeted, highly innovative antibiotic to market with a substantial financial prize; in exchange, manufacturers would surrender their patent.
This kind of “market-entry” reward would enable public health officials and physicians to deploy new drugs precisely where they’re needed. Manufacturers would no longer have an incentive to milk their patent, marketing the drug for inappropriate uses. The antibiotic could also be sold at a reasonable price in developing countries, which might otherwise be unable to afford a patented antibiotic.
Financing market-entry rewards would be expensive, perhaps $4 billion per year in total, or about 10 percent of the annual global bill for antibiotics. But you can’t defeat bacteria on the cheap. They’ve survived for billions of years because they’re so good at adapting to new threats. Staying one step ahead will require ingenuity, money and radical change. Tinkering around the margins isn’t going to cut it.
Read the whole thing here!