BREAD Working Paper No. 530, November 2017

Preventives Versus Treatments Redux: Tighter Bounds on Distortions in Innovation Incentives with an Application to the Global De

Michael Kremer, Christopher M. Snyder


Kremer and Snyder (2015) show that demand curves for a preventive and treatment may have different shapes though they target the same disease, biasing the pharmaceutical manufacturer toward developing the lucrative rather than the socially desirable product. This paper tightens the theoretical bounds on the potential deadweight loss from such biases. Using a calibration of the global demand for HIV pharmaceuticals, we demonstrate the dramatically sharper analysis achievable with the new bounds, allowing us to pinpoint potential deadweight loss at 62% of the global gain from curing HIV.We use the calibration to perform policy counterfactuals, assessing welfare effects of government policies such as a subsidy, reference pricing, and price-discrimination ban. The fit of our calibration is good: we find that a hypothetical drug monopolist would price an HIV drug so high that only 4% of the infected population worldwide would purchase, matching actual drug prices and quantities in the early 2000s before subsidies in low-income countries ramped up.

Keywords: pharmaceuticals, deadweight loss, product development

JEL classification codes: O31, L65, F23, I14

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