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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Gonda Theater
Georgetown University
December 1, 2008

Good afternoon, and welcome to Georgetown University. It’s truly an honor to co-host the US launch of the “Health Impact Fund”—and a privilege to do so with the distinguished scholars—and humanitarians—Dr. Thomas Pogge and Dr. Aidan Hollis.

The proposal that we will examine today has the potential to improve—and save—billions of lives…to allow countless individuals to not only survive—but thrive. Specifically, what we are discussing this afternoon—if implemented—will help the three-quarters of humanity, mostly in the developing world, who cannot afford the patented medicines we may take for granted….or who have no hope of treatment because drug companies are not introducing new medicines which are primarily needed by those who are not able to pay.

It’s also fitting that we’re discussing this proposal, today. It was 20 years ago that the WHO established December 1st as World AIDS Day. And while major advances have been made in the treatment and prevention of the disease, too many of the neediest in our global community still do not have access to the medicines that could help save their lives or alleviate their suffering. In awareness of those individuals…and in remembrance of all those who have lost the battle against AIDS…I invite all of you to join me in a moment of silence and respect…

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Of course, we can also honor those who have died of AIDS—or any other disease—simply because they could not access necessary medicines, by demonstrating our support for the Health Impact Fund.

This Fund has already received significant praise—and endorsement—from heads of state...top business leaders…and poverty and health experts…

…It recognizes our moral imperative to help the neediest…the most vulnerable …and the most wounded fellow members of our global community…

…And it acknowledges that in a world characterized by porous borders and boundaries, a health crisis in one country is a health crisis for us all.

The Health Impact Fund is based on two simple—yet far reaching—insights: That privately funded pharmaceutical R&D responds to incentives…and that new drugs can have a much greater worldwide impact if prices are kept low.

In terms of operation, governments and foundations would initially make contributions—totaling about $6 billion—to a yet-to-be established global fund. This fund would then be used to encourage pharmaceutical companies to produce new medicines that would help the most people in the world—or, in other words, have the greatest “health impact.” In exchange for researching and developing these medicines—and charging near the average cost of production and distribution—the pharmaceutical companies would receive monetary compensation from the fund.

The Health Impact Fund recognizes that the lack of financial resources should not close the doors to treatment or the windows on prevention to anyone…at any time…and anywhere in our global community.

But in the long run, the Fund will also benefit the affluent world alongside the poor, because communicable diseases –which expose all of us to new and virulent strains—will be better controlled…and because new medicines will be produced which otherwise would not have existed—since there would have been no incentive to manufacture them.

This is the beauty of the Health Impact Fund—it’s not just about ideals or a moral imperative, it’s also a pragmatic application of market principles. It’s about what is logical, practical, and worthwhile to governments, corporations, and societies. It provides incentive for pharmaceutical innovation in a way that’s in everyone’s interest. It’s common sense and would work in the world as-we-know-it. And it translates idealism into innovation…

…In essence, it will help ensure that all members of our global community have the necessary foundation of good health on which they can build their promise and potential. As a Catholic and Jesuit University—whose heritage and tradition compel us to engage in the world to make it a better place—we are proud to support the Health Impact Fund…and we look forward to the day that this vision becomes reality.

As many of you are aware, the Fund is the flagship proposal of “Incentives for Global Health,” a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Pogge…and directed by Dr. Hollis—who, in a moment, will tell you more about the Fund and how it would operate.

Dr. Pogge—a frequent visitor to Georgetown—is the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University. He has also made many important contributions to contemporary moral and political philosophy. In fact, his work has deeply influenced my own…and his book, World Poverty and Human Rights, is an essential element of the class I teach on “Ethics and Global Development.”

His colleague, Dr. Hollis, is a professor of economics and a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Policy Research at the University of Calgary. His work focuses on industrial organization, and he has published in several areas, including pieces on competition policy and the pharmaceutical industry.

It is now my privilege to introduce to you Dr. Thomas Pogge, and Dr. Aidan Hollis…

 

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