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UCLan awarded two million Euros to improve global access to medicines through pioneering research

11 March 2014

Press Office

Professor Thomas Pogge will lead University’s research team  

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been awarded a prestigious €2m European Research Council grant (ERC) to investigate how access to medicines can be improved across the globe.

Every year approximately 10 million people around the world die from lack of access to life-saving medicines. High prices generated by the intellectual property rights (IPR) system are partly responsible, leaving patients – especially in developing countries and emerging markets – unable to access the medicines they need.

The UCLan team will research how the IPR system could be supplemented so that the availability of medicines is improved world-wide. In particular, the ERC funded group will undertake multi-disciplinary research on performance-based rewards for pharmaceutical innovation so that some important medicines can be rewarded according to measurable global health impact rather than through patent-protected mark-ups that deprive many patients of access to the medicine.

High drug prices harm patients not only in the developing world. Sorafenib, marketed as Nexavar, is a cancer drug not normally available through the National Health Service (NHS) because its price is so high that it falls outside the established cost-effectiveness standard. To make this product accessible to its people, the Indian government imposed a compulsory licence that permits an Indian generic manufacturer to produce and sell the drug at a much lower price. With performance-based rewards, innovators could earn large payments for their products without charging exorbitant prices that might then provoke a compulsory licence.

"With the ERC funding, my team will be able to spend five years in a sustained effort to resolve one of the most intractable problems of the 20th and 21st Century."

The research project entitled ‘Performance-based Innovation Rewards’ will be led by Professor Thomas Pogge, from UCLan. He said: “There are no easy solutions to mitigating the disadvantages of the international IPR system. With the ERC funding, my team will be able to spend five years in a sustained effort to resolve one of the most intractable problems of the 20th and 21st Century.”

Professor Doris Schroeder, Director of the Centre for Professional Ethics at the School of Health at UCLan, added: “I am very proud and hopeful that Thomas' team will provide a breakthrough in the problem of access to life-saving medicines for the poor. The ERC funding is not only a recognition of his global standing given that the ERC only funds exceptional research leaders and pioneering work. It is also a means to an end that the Centre has been working towards for 10 years now, namely a significant improvement in the lives of the poor.”