Pandemic Flu Anti-virals

Friday, October 14, 2005
Blogger Steven Gorden has put his finger on the critical issue that will be one of the biggest barriers to developing the anti-virals to combat pandemic flu: our system of intellectual property and proprietary pharmaceuticals. While I agree with almost nothing that came out of communism, the notion that capitalism will supply the rope to make the nooses, comes pretty close here. It would be good for the immediate future with respect to pandemic flu, and good for the larger issue of controlling health care expense, if we as a nation took a good hard look at our processes for creating pharmaceuticals.


Knucklehead said...


I have a post sitting in the drafts that is related to this question but this is a specific case of the sort of thing I'm wondering about - what is the proper role of government with respect to that which might rightly be considered national infrastructure.

IP (patents, licenses, etc) clearly has a role in futhering technology - medical and otherwise. Without an ability to guarantee that one's R&D can be made to pay off should it be successful there'd be a big downturn in R&D.

But the holder of IP is not typically driven by national, or altuistic concerns. That is only human nature. I don't think any reasonable person could expect Roche to build factories and manufacture vast stocks of Tamiflu based upon the risk that an pandemic avian flu will sweep the world. They'd want some guarantees that somebody is going to make good their investment should the pandemic fail to happen.

I don't see that this is really an overall IP issue but, instead, a segment of IP - licensing.

There really is nothing stopping the US, or any other company, from negotiating manufacturing licenses with Roche or any other pharm company and taking on the financial risk of manufacturing in anticipation of a potential pandemic.

There is nothing from stopping the US, or any other nation, from modifying IP laws to allow for some sort of provisional licensing - the company is granted the license subject to the provision, as an example, that the nation(s) recognizing the license have manufacturing license based upon some "provision" (an impending pandemic).

The nations would, presumably, have to find some way to compensate Roche or whatever company when the provisional manufacturing license kicked in.

Syl said...

I think Bush is doing something along those lines, not as formal though. But the main problem seems to be unused vaccines. Pharmaceuticals take the loss.

I think Bush is trying to work out something whereby the govt would buy up anything not used.

I'm not sure this is going to be extended for other things, such as regular old annual flu vaccine. But there's a lot of grumbling that we're dependent on foreign pharmaceuticals for supplies when ours run low.

But, man, it's going to cost us.

David Thomson said...

“But the main problem seems to be unused vaccines. Pharmaceuticals take the loss.”

No, the bigger problem is the hatred of the pharmaceutical companies by the leftist establishment. Any attempt to compensate them for risk taken on our behalf would be criticized as unjustly giving government money to capitalist scum. The Republican hating MSM would have a field day and the Democrats would call for a criminal investigation.