Saturday, February 14, 2009

Towards the corporation of the commons

Kudos to drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical company, for a radical shift in strategy that is anticipated to stun the industry. The new head of GSK Andrew Witty, in an article in The Guardian:


He said that GSK will:

• Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US – and less if possible – and make drugs more affordable in middle-­income countries such as Brazil and India.

• Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a "patent pool", so they can be explored by other researchers.

• Reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics and staff.

• Invite scientists from other companies, NGOs or governments to join the hunt for tropical disease treatments at its dedicated institute at Tres Cantos, Spain.


It is the shift in view of intellectual property that is likely to be seen as most radical by other drug companies - and most transformative from the author's point of view, as an early example of what may become the corporation of the commons: leading in both innovation and responsibility. Is this approach the perfect solution? It is far too soon to tell. There is room for criticism - what impact will this have on current approaches to generic drugs in the developing world, for example. Nevertheless, it is a bold move, and a huge leap in the right direction.

Thanks to Gavin Baker on Open Access News.

This post is part of the Creative Globalization series.