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Can world prize competitions foster more equitable drug research and development?
Date:2/1/2008

Challenging researchers through international prize competitions to come up with innovative medicines and ideas for improving global health can help break existing profit-driven patterns that produce mostly drugs for the rich, according to world experts attending a landmark meeting devoted to the topic.

More than 50 experts assembed in Maastricht Jan. 28-29 focused on how best to use prize competitions to stimulate medical and pharmaceutical R&D.

Organized by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) and UNU-MERIT - a joint research and training centre of United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the meeting attracted participants from a broad range of disciplines and stakeholder groups, including research institutes, government, UN organizations, NGOs, industry, patent organizations and funding agencies.

The workshop was opened by UN Under-Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of UNU.

William Fisher, Harvard Law School, outlined several benefits of prize-driven competitons and important factors influencing the design of a prize system. He says prizes are a promising way to stimulate research into medical products to address neglected diseases.

Among the most compelling arguments in favour of medical research prizes is that they help eliminate economic and social costs imposed on society as a whole by the overpricing of drugs by patent holders with monopoly rights. Proponents argue that if the incentive for innovation can be divorced from the product's consumer price, knowledge can be placed in the public domain immediately, allowing competition to drive down prices and ensure greater access to new medical inventions.

Prizes can also help eliminate entrenched biases in patterns of research in the current system such as the over-concentration of research and development resources on drugs to combat "diseases of the rich" -- and a tendency to produce "me-too" drugs tha
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Contact: Wangu Mwangi
mwangi@merit.unu.edu
31-433-506-365
United Nations University
Source:Eurekalert

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