Nobel laureate Arrow to discuss economics of malaria

Kenneth J. Arrow, recipient of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, will discuss “The Economics of New Antimalarial Drugs” at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Bryan Cave Courtroom of Anheuser-Busch Hall.

Malaria, along with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, is one of the three largest global killers of the world’s poorest people. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 1 million children die from malaria each year.

Malaria is highly debilitating, causing loss of labor productivity and reduced educational attainment by children, leading to enormous economic, as well as health, consequences.

Arrow, a longtime professor of economics at Stanford University and influential policy adviser, recently chaired a National Institute of Medicine committee that issued a report on malaria.

Titled “Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance,” the report addresses the challenge of making effective antimalarial drugs widely accessible in order to reverse the increasing trend in deaths from drug-resistant malaria. Because the newer drugs are more expensive than those that they are replacing, the affected populations — among the world’s poorest — cannot afford them.

The report recommends that within the next five years, international organizations and world leaders should begin collectively to contribute $300 million to $500 million annually to create a global subsidy that would make new combination malaria treatments — artemisinin-combination therapies (ACTs) — available to all malaria sufferers for around 10 cents per treatment course, the cost of the old medicines.

Without significant investments in these new treatments, the malaria mortality rate in Africa and Asia could double in a few decades, as the drug now used most frequently is rendered useless by rapidly spreading resistance.

Arrow has called upon the international development community to recognize the effectiveness of ACT antimalarial drugs as a “global public good” — one worthy of a global subsidy to protect their effectiveness. His subsidy plan received high marks at a World Bank-sponsored summit on malaria held last month in Paris.

“We believe the concept has strong merit and could potentially have a significant impact in terms of accessibility to treatment, delaying resistance and ultimately reducing malaria-related death and illness,” said Jean-Louis Sarbib of the World Bank.

Free and open to the public, the discussion is sponsored by the Undergraduate Economics Association, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Department of Economics in Arts & Sciences.

For more information, call Dorothy Peterson at 935-5644.