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October 18, 2005

Market Thinking Will Kill You

-- by Dave Johnson

This is about regular flu, not avian flu. This is extremely important, as I'll explain after the excerpt. Flu Vaccine Maker Lowers Supply Expectations Again,

The Chiron Corporation said Monday that it would supply less flu vaccine than it had expected this year, increasing the chances that supplies would be tight this winter.

[. . .] Last year Chiron had expected to provide about 50 million flu shots, half the nation's anticipated supply. But it ended up supplying no shots because British regulators shut down the company's factory in Liverpool, England, citing sanitary problems.

[. . .] Mr. Pien said the company would not be able to produce as much as it expected because the installation of new equipment and procedures and worker training detracted from production.

And a related story, Bird flu drug maker won't share patent - Roche the sole manufacturer, a company spokesman says,

As nations begin to stockpile the drug in anticipation of a flu pandemic, calls are mounting for countries to sidestep patents on the drug -- as Brazil first did for AIDS medications -- and make their own generic versions.

But Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche, which acquired rights to the drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City in 1996, said Wednesday it had no intention of letting others make it.

"Roche ... fully intends to remain the sole manufacturer of Tamiflu,'' said company spokesman Terry Hurley.

Bird flu is on the horizon, and could kill as many as 1/4 of all people. We don't have the means in place to make enough regular flu vaccine, and the company that owns the patent on the flu drug won't allow licensing so the world can make more. They see the potential for huge profits, selling at premium prices to the richest few.

At what point do we break out of "market" thinking and just start building vaccine and Tamiflu production facilities? If you have children you love and want to protect you need to be asking yourself this question now. Not after bird flu starts to spread and kill. Now.

Posted by Dave Johnson at October 18, 2005 9:31 AM

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Comments

Ha.. I got my flu shot 2 weeks ago.

Posted by: Charles [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 11:48 AM

I called my doctor's office just before getting on line to make an appointment for my flu shot. I've always gotten it in mid-October, even last year during the vaccine shortage. His office hasn't received any vaccine yet.

Pharmaceutical companies don't like to make vaccines. Too much quality control required, too little profit compared to selling pills that cost a few cents to make and sell for incredible amounts. Nobody's looking out for public health and welfare. We've got to get congress back and PASS SOME LAWS!

Posted by: MJ at October 18, 2005 12:44 PM

http://grannyinsanity.blogspot.com/2005/09/yet-another-flu-vaccine-shortage.html

Of course they are still deciding who should live and who should die. The elites need to keep some strong workers to scrub their toilets and all.

Posted by: grannyinsanity [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 1:12 PM

Too much quality control required, too little profit compared to selling pills that cost a few cents to make and sell for incredible amounts.

Yeah, right, just overlook the fact that getting a new drug from conception and through trials costs $800 million, and that is not even counting gearing up a production plant, marketing etc. And considering that about half of all concepts fail with still going through a few million a pop, it adds up. These innovators (who, BTW, are making our lives better) need to recoup that enormous capital expenditure somehow.

Posted by: Pericles at October 18, 2005 2:43 PM

What is really rotten? Maids and farm workers that expect to be paid for every hour they work.

Those low wage scum are dragging us down, man.

Posted by: grannyinsanity [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 3:05 PM

Pericles, you need to get your head out from between your legs. I've been head of R&D for a corporation and I know all about development costs and quality control costs. I've had to make those bottom line decisions myself. I also played a role in developing the flu vaccine. I know how much quality control is needed to produce an active vaccine that won't kill people and actually provide protection. The costs for developing a drug or a vaccine, setting up production, etc. for a pill and a vaccine pretty much parallel each other. It's the quality control costs during production plus what one can charge for the product that make the difference in whether you want to continue marketing the product. Vaccines, compared to pills, are expensive to make and you can't charge much for them. If you're hell-bent on profits and have no interest in public health and safety, you're gonna balk at making and distributing vaccines. That's just the way things are. That's the way unregulated capitalism behaves. The profit for pills is enormous because advertising convinces people new drugs are worth what they cost. Vaccines have been around for a long time and they're not glamorous. What do you suggest we do about this situation? Sit and wait for the pandemic?

Posted by: MJ at October 19, 2005 7:02 AM

Wow MJ, reading all the times you have said "I've been X" to tout your intimate knowledge of the subject I would guess that you have had more careers in your life than you have had years. Truly exceptional.

Of course, thanks to the anonymity of the internet we have only your word to go on.

Posted by: Pericles at October 19, 2005 8:27 AM

Yeah, I'm 115 years old and I've had plenty of careers and plenty of experience. How much experience have you had?

I'm not about to post my resume here. Stumped by logic and facts, you call the other person a liar. How about answering my question? What do you propose as a way out of the dilemma about the cost of making and marketing vaccines? You'd rather stick to pure capitalism and let people die? That's really profound thinking! There really is such a thing as carrying ideology too far. There really are times when there has to be government action.

Vaccines aren't the only problem, Sonny. There's also the problem of the pharmaceutical industry not wanting to make drugs that cure rare diseases because there's no huge market and profit in this either. I hope you and nobody in your family, or anyone you love, ever dies because of this kind of ideological stupidity. When it comes to public health, there's no difference between the immune systems of conservatives and liberals.

Posted by: MJ at October 19, 2005 1:14 PM

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