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Health Policy and Technological Change: Evidence from the Vaccine Industry

  • Amy Finkelstein

Rapid technological progress has been a defining feature of the medical sector over the last century, yet we know little about the determinants of the development of these new technologies. This paper examines whether and to what extent the demand-side incentives embodied in health policy affect the rate of technological change in the medical sector. Specifically, I estimate the effect on vaccine investment of discrete changes in health policy that increased the return to developing vaccines against specific diseases. I present robust evidence of an increase in vaccine investment associated with the increase in demand-side investment incentives. The induced investment represents 70% of the total subsequent vaccine investment in the affected diseases, and suggests that a $1 increase in annual market revenue for a vaccine is associated with 5 to 6 cents of additional investment in that vaccine's development. However, this response appears limited to the last stage of the R&D pipeline clinical trials which represents the commercialization of existing technology; I am unable to detect evidence of an investment response at earlier stages as measured by pre-clinical trials or patent filings that represent more of an attempt to develop fundamentally new technologies. Finally, I present suggestive evidence that the potential dynamic health benefits from the technological change induced by the policies are at least as large as the static health benefits from the policies' primary aim of increasing vaccination rates with the existing technology. These results suggest that the near-exclusive focus on static health benefits in empirical evaluations of health policies is inadequate.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9460.

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Date of creation: Jan 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9460
Note: HC PR PE
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  1. Michael Kremer, 2001. "Creating Markets for New Vaccines - Part I: Rationale," NBER Chapters, in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 35-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Fortin, Pierre & Keil, Manfred & Symons, James, 2001. "The Sources of Unemployment in Canada, 1967-91: Evidence from a Panel of Regions and Demographic Groups," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(1), pages 67-93, January.
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  6. Charles I. Jones & John C. Williams, 1997. "Measuring the social return to R&D," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-12, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Richard G. Newell & Adam B. Jaffe & Robert N. Stavins, 1998. "The Induced Innovation Hypothesis and Energy-Saving Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 6437, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hall, Bronwyn & Van Reenen, John, 2000. "How effective are fiscal incentives for R&D? A review of the evidence," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4-5), pages 449-469, April.
  9. Paul M. Romer, 2000. "Should the Government Subsidize Supply or Demand in the Market for Scientists and Engineers?," NBER Working Papers 7723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Goolsbee, Austan, 1998. "Does Government R&D Policy Mainly Benefit Scientists and Engineers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 298-302, May.
  11. 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.
  12. Geoffard, Pierre-Yves & Philipson, Tomas, 1997. "Disease Eradication: Private versus Public Vaccination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 222-30, March.
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