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Improving the Incentives of the FDA Voucher Program for Neglected Tropical Diseases

Global Health
Cameron Graham Arnold
Thomas Pogge

"The largest Ebola outbreak to date—first detected in December 2013 and still ongoing as of April 2015—has cast new light on the shortfalls of international public health systems.1 As in previous health crises, scrutiny has reemerged over the pharmaceutical industry’s ability and willingness to innovate new medicines for underserved disease areas. The public debate has intensified following revelations that promising drug candidates to treat Ebola had gone undeveloped despite compelling preclinical results.2 This lack of development is especially troubling because it occurred after a recently implemented U.S. incentive scheme—the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) tropical disease priority review voucher program—designed to counteract exactly this problem. Taking Ebola as a case in point, it is useful to examine the short history and ongoing refinement of this voucher program, since it represents one of the most significant legislative efforts to systematically address the relative absence of com- mercial rewards for drugs targeting tropical diseases. This analysis evaluates the voucher program’s effectiveness for both stimulating private sector innovation and achieving positive health impacts among populations most severely burdened by tropical diseases. It then proposes specific recommendations for how law- makers can improve the program’s legislation to better achieve these objectives. "


Cameron Graham Arnold is currently completing a Masters of Science in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with a focus in health economics. He has nearly five years of experience working in various analytical roles within the biopharmaceutical industries in Denmark and the United Kingdom. Arnold is the recipient of two Richard U. Light Fellowships and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University, where he majored in East Asian literature and Mandarin Chinese. He will matriculate to medical school in fall 2015.

Thomas Pogge is Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs and founding Director of the Global Justice Program at Yale University. He holds part-time positions at King’s College London and the Universities of Oslo and Central Lancashire. Pogge is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science, as well as President of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) and of Incentives for Global Health. Pogge’s recent publications include Politics as Usual (Polity 2010); World Poverty and Human Rights (Polity 2008); and Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right (Oxford & UNESCO 2007).