di Pietro Paganini
Real Clear World, 10 novembre 2017
In an increasingly polarized world where seemingly every issue is politicized, what we need more of is unbiased work based on science and facts to inform the public policy discussion. Historically, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has been just such an organization – an institution diligent about providing factually sound, evidence-based information on issues ranging from education, economic development, trade and health. Unfortunately, the organization’s Health Division is threatening to undermine that reputation. Its work is at odds with the OECD’s commitment to market economies and its core mission to promote policies that facilitate economic growth through innovation, trade, and investment.
There is no doubt that the OECD has an important role to play in collecting and disseminating data in an objective manner that can inform public policy decisions and contribute to more efficient, sustainable and patient-oriented health systems around the world. But the recent work of the Health Committee secretariat undermines free-market principles, relies on misleading data, and fails to appreciate the value of innovation to society.
After failing in the G7, the French government chose to directly commission the OECD Health Division to do their work for them. This work includes a report set to be released by the OECD Health Division at the end of 2017 that could forward policy recommendations that would fundamentally harm the research-based biopharmaceutical industry’s ability to develop new treatments and cures for patients.
What is most disturbing about the premise of the Health Division’s current work is how narrowly focused it is on prices and pharmaceutical spending in a few therapeutic areas. It ignores the broader context that is critical to understanding the sustainability of health care systems.
If the OECD Health Division does not scrap its current approach, the anticipated results could showcase policy options for price controls that would strip innovators’ patent rights through harmful measures such as compulsory licensing — a limited authorization meant to be used in emergency situations but often leveraged as a backdoor way for governments to circumvent important patent protections.
These options, which go against the OECD’s own market principles, would do little to promote sustainability or access to medicines. They would instead curtail the pharmaceutical innovation needed to meet growing health challenges in OECD countries. By mischaracterizing trends in pricing and aggregate spending and ignoring the dynamics of key therapeutic categories, the report could fall well short of the solid fact-based evidence and high standards expected from the OECD when it comes to policy analyses. And this matters because countries count on the OECD to provide high-quality unbiased information to help them make policy decisions.
The Health Division’s work is happening against a backdrop of a U.S. administration that wants to scrutinize contributions to multilateral institutions across the board, and the U.S. Congress is not taking a backseat. Earlier in October, legislation meant to hamper U.S. contributions to multilateral organizations, including the OECD, was introduced in the U.S. Senate.
Here’s where the current French government can help right the wrong of their predecessors. They could work with the rest of international community and encourage the OECD to take actions to ensure it will not end up being a target of U.S. action on multilateral institutions. The OECD can prevent any report currently in the works by the Health Division from moving forward without correcting that report’s fundamental flaws, such as a narrow scope of analysis, and removing any policy options that undermine innovation without meaningfully improving access or sustainability.
Furthermore, OECD leadership should demand that its Health Division work in close coordination with other OECD branches — like trade, economic policy, and innovation — to take a more balanced view on innovation, access and sustainability. The Health Division should also have to bring together experts from areas such as new technologies, science, and innovation to recommend real health solutions. All of these steps could help course-correct a division astray and bring us back to what the international policy world needs now more than ever – the real OECD.