United Nations Writes the Wrong Prescription for Medical Innovation - American Commitment

By: Holly Wilson9/15/2016
Yesterday, the United Nations released a report from the Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Medicines. This troubling report contains many mischaracterizations and selective oversights that undermine intellectual property protections – the driving force behind innovation, growth, and success in the creation and discovery of new cures.
Intellectual property is a topic rarely discussed by the general public, but it is absolutely essential to many booming industries today. This is especially true in the healthcare space, where according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the average cost and development time to bring a single cure to market is now approximately $2.6 billion and 10 years, with a failure rate of about 90 percent for every drug under development.
These facts and statistics are widely recognized. Even Bill Gates weighed in on the importance of intellectual property protections earlier this year when asked how to ensure new miracle drugs “aren’t just available to the rich and the well-insured.” His response may surprise you.
“I think the current system is better than most other systems one can imagine. I mean curing hepatitis C. This is a phenomenal thing and now you have multiple drug companies competing in terms of the quality and the price of that offering.”
Gates continued, “The drug companies are turning out miracles and we need their R&D budgets to stay strong. They need to see that opportunity. For things like Alzheimer’s, they can reduce medical costs so dramatically and improve the human condition, and the pharmaceutical companies have been great partners of our foundation. When we need help in doing science they are unique in what they can do.”
Like Bill Gates said, without the ability to recoup costs for research and development, growth in this sector will slow to a crawl, cures will not be developed, and lives will continue to be lost. A model where billions of dollars are poured into development, and little to no cost recovery is permitted simply is not sustainable. Still, that’s exactly what the United Nations report prescribes.
Among its recommendations, the panel proposed drastically restricting the patentability of medical innovations, using compulsory licenses to effectively force companies to hand over their intellectual property – even if it has already been patented, minimizing the private sector’s role in research and development (pushing that onto government), and – perhaps most disturbing – putting the United Nations itself above national governments in the oversight of intellectual property rights.
These outrageous recommendations must be recognized for what they are – highly detrimental to the development and creation of new cures, as well as a proposed violation of national sovereignty. The United Nations has written the wrong prescription. Let’s not let patients and cures suffer because of it.