skip to navigation skip to content

Donald Light

Research Associate

Donald Light is a medical and economic sociologist who does policy research on institutional access and quality problems for medical services and drugs. Recent research analyses the epidemic of harmful side effects from drugs, institutional barriers to more effective, safer drugs, and global vaccine policy. He was a visiting professor at the University of Cambridge in 2016 and a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. 

Light is a professor at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and a guest researcher at the New York University Division of Medical Ethics as well as Princeton University. In 2013, Light received the Distinguished Career Award in Sociological Practice from the American Sociological Association. In 2016, he won the Pellegrino Medal in Bioethics. 


Current research includes work with MSF (Doctors without Borders) on lowering prices for vaccines, investigating the net R and D costs of drug development, and studying ways to do research for better drugs without the distorting effects of commercial influences (Good Pharma, Palgrave 2015). 

Personal background

Donald Light is a medical and economic sociologist who has done comparative, historical studies of health care systems and the medical profession. For 20 years, he served as an adviser to the NHS and to NHS-Scotland on projects to reduce waiting times for elective surgery and to integrate post-hospital care. 

Since 1995, Professor Light has published work on ethical issues concerning fairness in health insurance, pricing of medicines, and the development of prescription medicines. He has developed concepts such as “countervailing powers,” “the inverse coverage law,” “the inverse benefit law,” “perverse competition,” and “the risk proliferation syndrome” that results from aggressively marketing patented drugs with few clinical benefits but substantial risks of harm.  

Citations to his work rank in the 96th percentile of all scholars tracked by Google, and he received the Pellegrino Medal in 2016 for contributions to bioethics. In 2013 he received the Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association for applied sociology. He has visiting appointments at Princeton and New York University and is a member of the Oppenheimer Circle at the Institute for Advanced Study. 

Donald received his a BA with distinction from Stanford University, his MA from the University of Chicago, and his PhD from Brandeis University.

Light, DW, Maturo, A. Good Pharma: The Public-Health Model of the Mario Negri Institute. London, New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2015. 

Light, DW. Ed. The Risks of Prescription Drugs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Clendinen, C.; Zhang, Y; Warburton, R.W.; Light, D.W., “Manufacturing costs of HPV vaccines for developing countries,” Vaccine 2016; 34 (48): 5984-89. (Details in appendices on left) 

Light, D.W., “Preventing Cervical Cancer” IAS Letter (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ) Spring 2017

Light, D.W. “Debunking the Pharmaceutical Research ‘Free Rider’ Myth: A response to Yu, Helms, And Bach”, Health Affairs Blog, 2 June 2017 

Light, DW and Lexchin, J. “The FDA’s new clothes” BMJ 2015; 351:h4897 

Light, DW and Lexchin, J. “Why do cancer drugs get such an easy ride?” BMJ 2015; 350:h2068.  

Light DW, Kantarjian H. “Market spiral pricing of cancer drugs.” Cancer 2013;119 (22): 3900-02. 

Light DW, Lexchin J, and Darrow J, “Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs.” Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics 2013: 41 (3); 590-600.   

This paper was featured in Forbes magazine July-Aug 2013. Awarded as most downloaded in its class. 

Contact details

Donald Light
Rowan University
Stratford, NJ 08002

Tel: +1-609-216-0071