According to The Economist Push and Pull article published this week, the finance ministries of the G8 next month are to decide on proposals for "Advance Purchase Commitment" for developing world countries for diseases such as AIDS, malaria and TB.
Michael Kremer, an economist at Harvard, is for the proposal and believes that by guaranteeing a market it will provide incentive for the big pharmaceutical companies to invest.
Andrew Farlow, an economist at Oxford University, is a huge critic of the idea. He points out that the G8 would have to specify how good is good enough for a guarantee purchase. What happens when the first drug is only slightly effective and the next drug is much better. Lots to consider here and Andrew doesn't think they will get it all right.
At one point in the article, the question is asked - what happens if this promise still isn't enough to inspire sufficient research to discover a cure. Kremer effectively responds we're no worse off than we are today and the G8 will have spent nothing.
Working within TSL, this is where I disagree. This could be just the kind of policy to keep people from openly collaborating and sharing. Don't get me wrong, if this is the panacea that will inspire significant research in tropical diseases, then I'm all for it. But I'm frankly quite suspicious that it's possible to write a global policy with enough foresight to actually be effective. I have more faith in the powers of collective science.