The Global Health Licensing Program: A New Model for Humanitarian Licensing at the University Level

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Disparities in health outcomes and access to the essential medicines that affect health outcomes are two of the most pressing issues facing the world today.1 The lack of adequate health care in developing countries is rooted in a number of systemic problems, including insufficient health infrastructure, lack of medical personnel, government corruption and incompetence, and the high price of pharmaceuticals. These problems are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they are mutually reinforcing, particularly in least developed and developing countries.2

The high cost of drugs and vaccines is undoubtedly one of the driving forces in disparate health outcomes,3 and partial solutions to poor health in the developing world rightly focus on lowering the cost of health products, while preserving the financial incentive for innovation.4 The high cost of many medicines is largely due to the international patent system, codified by the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which grants a monopoly to the innovator and allows it to completely control pricing for a period of years. The result is an access gap, whereby patients in low- and middle-income countries (LMI) cannot afford expensive patented drugs, while patients in wealthy countries can afford and do have access to such treatments. In response to this, the most explored means for lowering drug prices thus far has been the introduction of generic competition in the drug market, whether accomplished through licensing provisions or through public pressure on pharmaceutical companies.5