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A few weeks ago, a group of Democrats in both houses of Congress introduced the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, a 129-page bill designed to lower drug prices while increasing innovation and cracking down on pharmaceutical company abuses (my thoughts on the bill are here).

There’s one provision that hasn’t gotten enough attention: the creation of a prize fund for new antibiotics.


Antibiotic resistance is a large and growing public health problem. Many routine infections are becoming increasingly resistant to standard therapies, and we are running out of new drugs to treat them. Even more worrisome, there are few if any new drugs in the pipeline. Leading scholars of both law and economics have argued that we need new business models to produce new antibiotics, and that the standard pathways (through grants, patents, and FDA-administered exclusivity periods) create perverse incentives toward overuse where the need for antibiotic stewardship is paramount.

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  • Interesting article, thanks. With regard to the two points you highlight at the end, conditioning the prize on (1) making the product available at a low price, and (2) waiving IPRs (and other forms of exclusivity), readers may wonder why the second is necessary if the first is in effect. That is, one might ask, “if the winner of the prize can’t set a high price, why should I care any more if she still has a patent?” It would make this essay more useful if you were to explain that too. (To be clear, I think there’s a good answer to the question, I just wish it were included here, as it may not be obvious to many readers).

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