Publication Title: 
Cardozo Law Review
Publication Date: 
Friday, January 1, 2010

Antibiotic effectiveness is a common pool resource that can be prematurely depleted through resistance. Some experts warn that we may face a global ecological collapse in antibiotic effectiveness.

Conventional wisdom argues for more intellectual property rights to speed the creation of new antibiotics. Recent theoretical literature suggests that conservation-based approaches may yield superior results. This article describes a novel typology for organizing these emerging theories and provides an early empirical test of these models using proprietary data on the sales of vancomycin, an important hospital antibiotic for the last three decades.

The article focuses on three important policy questions concerning antibiotic resistance:

  1. The tension between production of new antibiotics and conservation of existing drugs
  2. The relationship between resistance and innovation
  3. The policy levers employed in the battle against antibiotic resistance, particularly the current reliance on patent law to solve antibiotic resistance problem

The results challenge the assumptions in several models and will force a re-evaluation of the role of intellectual property rights in antibiotic resistance and conservation. In particular, insurance reimbursement may be a more effective policy leverl than patent law ot preserve antibiotic effectiveness.


Outterson, K. (2010). The Legal Ecology of Resistance: The Role of Antibiotic Resistance in Pharmaceutical Innovation. Cardozo Law Review, 31(3), 613-978.