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Altruism and Innovation in Health Care

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  • Anupam B. Jena
  • Stéphane Mechoulan
  • Tomas J. Philipson

Abstract

The joint presence of technological change and consumption externalities is central to health care industries around the world, because medical innovation drives the expansion of the health care sector and altruism seems to motivate many public subsidies. Although traditional economic analysis has proposed well-known remedies to deal with consumption externalities and inefficient technological change in isolation, it lacks clear principles for addressing them jointly. We argue that standard remedies to each of the two problems are inadequate. Focusing on U.S. health care, we provide illustrative calculations of the dynamic inefficiency in the level of research and development (R&D) spending when innovators are unable to appropriate the altruistic surplus of nonconsumers. We calibrate that altruistic gains amount to about a quarter of consumer surplus in the baseline scenario and that R&D spending may be underprovided by as much as 60 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Anupam B. Jena & Stéphane Mechoulan & Tomas J. Philipson, 2010. "Altruism and Innovation in Health Care," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages 497-518.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/648383
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Philipson Tomas J & Jena Anupam B, 2006. "Who Benefits from New Medical Technologies? Estimates of Consumer and Producer Surpluses for HIV/AIDS Drugs," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 1-33, January.
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    4. Jones, Charles I & Williams, John C, 2000. "Too Much of a Good Thing? The Economics of Investment in R&D," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 65-85, March.
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    9. Joseph P. Newhouse, 1992. "Medical Care Costs: How Much Welfare Loss?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 3-21, Summer.
    10. Wright, Brian Davern, 1983. "The Economics of Invention Incentives: Patents, Prizes, and Research Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 691-707, September.
    11. Michael Kremer, 2002. "Pharmaceuticals and the Developing World," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 67-90, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. Basu, Anirban & Jena, Anupam B. & Philipson, Tomas J., 2011. "The impact of comparative effectiveness research on health and health care spending," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 695-706, July.
    2. Jena Anupam B. & Mechoulan Stéphane & Philipson Tomas J., 2013. "Should Global Health be Tailored Toward the Rich? Altruism and Efficient R&D for Neglected Diseases," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(1), pages 1-36, March.

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