Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sweet incentives

Incentives to develop treatments for "neglected diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and leishmanaisis" may encourage drug companies to focus more on potentially life-saving research and development, declares a U.S. business professor. The suggested incentive comes in the form of a "priority review voucher", which "would give a company accelerated regulatory review of one of its other drugs as a reward for developing a treatment for neglected disease".

Although these diseases affect more than 1 billion people, they occur most frequently in developing nations, providing little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to create and test new treatments.

Writing in the Sept. 11 issue of The Lancet, professor David Ridley of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and Alfonso Calles-Sánchez, a patent expert with the Spanish Patent Office and former pharmaceutical policy maker at the European Commission, propose a European Union version of the priority review voucher system instituted in the United States in 2007.

Bill Gates explained an example of such incentives at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos. "If you develop a new drug for malaria, your profitable cholesterol-lowering drug could go on the market a year earlier...This priority review could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars [to the company]," Gates said.

In the U.S., the vouchers and other incentives are working. Firms and drug companies are motivated to begin clinical testing; although, these drugs may take several years to reach patients in need. Still, any forward movement in these fields is improvement. With continued encouragement, drug companies may enact the demise of malaria and other currently neglected diseases.

Do you have ideas or suggestions for other incentives that may encourage the eradication of malaria?

David B Ridley, Alfonso Calles Sánchez. Introduction of European priority review vouchers to encourage development of new medicines for neglected diseases. The Lancet, 2010; 376 (9744): 922-927 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60669-1

Duke University (2010, September 9). European Union could create incentive for new drug treatments, experts propose. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/09/100909193359.htm

Image by Petar Marjanovic