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November 9, 2005
Cash For Vaccines
While the Wall Street Journal is opening its site for free this week, may I recommend this excellent article on the vaccine and antibiotic markets? It's a clear-eyed look at why drug companies haven't put more time and money into these areas over the years. The headline makes it sound as if it's going to be a pharma-bashing-festival, but the authors (Scott Hensley and Bernard Wysocki) lay out the facts, which are just as I understand them from my vantage point, too.
The second article in the series is also up here. It's an equally good overview of the possible incentives that are being discussed to encourage work in vaccines and anti-infectives. I'm glad to see the idea of incentives being discussed, because as it stands, the market isn't necessarily going to give us what we need in the time we need it. New antibiotics are generally reserved for use in resistant cases only, so you can't make your money back there. And new vaccines can end up costing too much in liability suits (many - most - of which aren't particularly well justified). But put some incentives in there, and perhaps the numbers can work out. The article goes into detail on some of the proposals - straight cash, guaranteed purchases, extra product exclusivity, and so on.
I know that some people will hear these ideas and wonder why the government doesn't just do the research itself, rather than cough up money to the drug companies. The biggest reason is that the drug companies are better at it, and faster as well. We stay on our toes competing against each other. The biggest pitfall in these incentive plans, as far as I'm concerned, is that it might end up with companies that have no one breathing down their neck. Better to have two or three organizations racing each other and throwing elbows to grab the prize, than to have someone ambling over to pick it up.
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