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Pull me - push you? The disparate financing mechanisms of drug research in global health.


Background: There is an inconsistency in the way pharmaceutical research is financed. While pull mechanisms are predominantly used to incentivize later-stage pharmaceutical research for products with demand in the Global North, so-called neglected diseases are chiefly financed by push funding. This discrepancy has so far been ignored in the academic debate, and any compelling explanation for why we draw the line between push and pull at poor people is lacking.

Main Body: Clinical development of new pharmaceuticals is chiefly financed by free market pull mechanisms. Even in cases where markets fail to deliver adequate incentives, demand enhancement mechanisms are used to replicate pull funding artificially, for example, with subscription models for antibiotics. Push funding in clinical research is almost always used when the poverty of patients means that markets fail to create sufficient demand. The general question of whether push or pull generally is the more efficient way to conduct pharmaceutical research arises.

Conclusions: If the state is efficient in directing limited budgets for pharmaceutical research, push funding should be expanded to global diseases. If private industry is the more efficient actor, there would be enormous value in experimenting more aggressively with different approaches to enhance market demand artificially for neglected diseases.

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Journal Article
Matthey M
Hollis A