Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Contagion: President Obama and the nation's pharmaceutical manufacturers … by gimleteye

No one is saying that Americans are under imminent attack by Ebola, but President Obama must wonder nights, if the wars we see will be topped by a virus we can't.

Yesterday, Margaret Chan, chief of the World Health Organization, put her cards on the table. According to the BBC: "The Ebola epidemic threatens the "very survival" of societies and could lead to failed states, the WHO has warned." Granted, she was talking about West Africa where Ebola is turning into the worst epidemic in modern history.

Meanwhile, there has been a torrent of commentary from public health experts, sure that the Ebola virus can be contained and must be, by addressing gaps in serving huge, impoverished populations. By lowering the rate of new infections through education and the distribution of containment gear, it will be possible -- they say -- to trap the virus where it is rampant and lower the risk of the virus gaining a foothold in other, developed regions of the world.

The shoe that hasn't dropped is the potential for Ebola to mutate into a viral form, less lethal but even more easily transmittable. (The best TV report on Ebola in Liberia was recently broadcast by Vice and can be viewed here.)

The GOP objected to Obama ordering 3,000 American military personnel to West Africa. Aside from their fecklessness, Obama ought to step to the bully pulpit the way FDR did the day after Pearl Harbor, marshaling US industry to convert peace-time manufacturing to the purposes of war.

President Obama could urge the nation's pharmaceutical industry to redirect to Ebola vaccine research, cure, and establishing a path to manufacture enough vaccine and medication to serve the nation and our less fortunate friends. Now, under government order in West Africa, citizens are being asked to tend their sick and dying at home without the education, equipment, or protocols to prevent the spread among family members.

With other diseases, from HIV/AIDS to MERS and avian influenza or even cancer, Big Pharma marches to its own drummer. The industry defends itself -- as it did on 60 Minutes recently on the extraordinary high consumer costs of the promising drug, Gleevac -- by saying that the price of complex drugs must correlate to billion dollar costs.

President Obama needs to make a different argument: no one should test with Ebola whether or not it is an existential threat to the United States. Yesterday, the CDC announced human trials of a Canadian vaccine that shows great promise in tests on monkeys. Even if the vaccine proves out, it will take coordination to manufacture enough to satisfy demand.

The window for stopping the most recent Ebola epidemic in Africa opened and may be closed. The same window to move the nation's pharma manufacturers in an orderly transition against Ebola is open now, but it would close, too, if Ebola becomes pandemic.

The Republican Congress is in a trance, its every action is a reaction against the President. Not even Congress' gold plated health care plan can offer protection against a virus  killing 70 percent of the people it infects.

Let President Obama do his job now, asking Big Pharma to turn its attention to Ebola vaccines and cures.

1 comment:

cheap crap from china said...

Human trials are beginning as we speak for a vaccine developed in Canada, looks promising. American pharma doesn't like cures or prevention vaccines, they like treatment protocols, which provide them with endless revenue streams. Capitalism at its best *sarcasm*