There’s a rather fun call for the public sector to investigate antibiotics. As a result of market failure. To which the answer is, sure, why not, go for it. As long, that is, as the public sector is just one player in that market. So that we can see whether the public sector is actually better at it.
The basic analysis here is that antibiotic research doesn’t make a profit and that this is just and righteous. For there is that antibiotic resistance to think of. Therefore we want to use the new ones sparingly, – actually, not at all – until we really, really, have to. This doesn’t then match over the needs of someone who has just spent a $1 billion to get the thing licensed and only has a decade of patent life to gain that back.
So, yes, we’ve a problem here. To which the public funding of antibiotic research and development would be an entirely useful solution. Except and but:
As these precedents show, public ownership of international antibiotic R&D could be an effective response to the global antibiotic resistance emergency. As recently proposed by economist Lord Jim O’Neill, a quick way out of the current crisis might be to buy out remaining industry R&D – including relevant experts and patented compounds in industry archives.
Ah, no. We don’t want the public sector to now be the monopolist developer. We want the public sector to be an additional developer.
Quite apart from anything else, we want to see that the public sector is doing this better than the private. That is, we still want that market competition even if we’ve now got a public player in those markets.
The analysis of the problem is fine, the suggestion is useful, but a public monopoly isn’t the cure. It’s to have the public provider and see how well it does.