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Economist Lybecker Discusses Free Trade, Global Health in Singapore

Economist Lybecker Discusses Free Trade, Global Health in Singapore

Associate Economics and Business Professor Kristina Lybecker recently presented at the 16th Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Negotiations in Singapore, where more than 300 global stakeholders from academia, labor unions, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations participated in events hosted by the government of Singapore. Lybecker discussed “Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Economics of Access to Medicines: The Challenges of Pharmaceutical Patents, Innovation, and Access for Global Health.”

Lybecker maintains that free trade is the most efficient and effective way to promote global economic growth and enhance global health, and that investment in medical innovation and breakthrough therapies is more essential than ever.

She notes that each year more than 18 million lives end in death from poverty-related causes, fully one-third of all human deaths globally. This amounts to 50,000 deaths per day from causes such as respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, and tropical diseases. “The numbers are overwhelming and mandate an examination of the barriers to access medicines in developing countries where the majority of these deaths occur,” she says.

“Admittedly this is an immense and complicated issue and the economics behind pharmaceutical innovation and access is but one facet of a complete understanding of the problem. My presentation explored the context of the problems surrounding access to medicines, highlighting the tremendously complicated web of issues that prevent medicines from reaching the world’s poorest.”

Lybecker’s presentation also described the implications of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) for global health. While the international patent system is flawed and in need of improvement, she says it is overly simplistic to blame drug patents, international trade agreements, and the global pharmaceutical industry for the access problem. “The reality surrounding the challenges of access to medicines is more nuanced. Free trade begets growth, health, and development.”