Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Antibiotic Conundrum

By Rich Kozlovich

The IBTimes reported "23,000 people die yearly from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the U.S. and more than 2 million fall ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But as many as 10 million people a year could die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria worldwide by 2050 if new treatments are not discovered"

David Shlaes posted an article entitled, We Can’t Just Subsidize Back to Antibiotics Leadership, saying, "Recently I went back to the book I wrote back in 2010 — “Antibiotics: The Perfect Storm.” In that book I had a table showing the number of large pharmaceutical companies ($10B in revenues) pursuing antibiotic R and D and those who were not.  I then updated that table as it stands today......."Guess what! The names have shifted, but the numbers are the same."

The truth of the matter is once a corporation disbands it's antibiotic research team it can take years to rebuild it, even if they've committed to that task 100%.  These teams don't come into existance by advertising in the jobs wanted classified section of the newspaper.  And we need to get this.  If there's no money in this endeavor - there's no research - period. 

It takes billions of dollars and even decades of research to bring pharmacueticals to market - and that means money has to be acquired, it has to be repaid, and even more money has to be acquired for further research for the next generation of pharmecueticals.  Guess what?  The people who invested in this research want a good return on their investment.  Otherwise no investment will be made, and no products will be developed.  Getting that kind of return and future investment dollars can only be done by selling these products at high prices initially. 

I was invited to the world premier of 3Billion and Counting a number of years ago in New York City, and met a number of people involved in public health in the third world, and this subject came up.  I said the same thing there I'm saying now. 

"If there's no money, there's no product!"

Is that fair?  Is it right only the rich nations can afford those products?  Is it right that many will die because they can't afford available expensive life saving pharmecueticals?   If you're a humane person the answer must be no! But no matter how humane we may be we must face reality.  We don't live in a perfect world.   The best we can hope for is the most acceptable imperfection.  And this is it! 

There's one more thing I always point out.  At some point all these products will go out of patent and will become part of the public domain.  Once that happens untold millions of lives will be saved that would have otherwise died if the product had never been developed. 

These products only make it to the market because they're profitable!  It's naturally disturbing that many may die before these products go out of patent and can become inexpensively produced and sold all over the world, but we have to ask -  how many would continue to die if these products aren't developed at all? 

Life isn't fair.  It's just life!

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