Tuesday, June 30, 2020

You never give me your money (Musings on paying to develop COVID-19 vaccine)

Updated: 1 July 2020
What to blog about when COVID-19 dominates the news, whether it's research funding, impact on blood supplies, paid plasma proponents, testing, treatments, vaccines? Plus, of course, government guidelines and measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus while opening up the economy.

Finally decided that June's blog should discuss the question of who pays to develop COVID-19 vaccine and who gets priority once it exists, including which countries worldwide and, within countries like the USA without universal healthcare, will all be able to afford it.

The blog's title derives from a 1969 ditty by the Beatles.

Governments worldwide have invested billions into developing a coronavirus vaccine, some given to university researchers, some to Big Pharma. There are reports that if a vaccine is developed inside a nation, that country will have priority access to the vaccine.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything it's that supply chains for crucial medical equipment like food, PPE and drugs must be secured and the best way is to produce them in the country, if possible. There are even reports of France and Germany accusing USA of diverting medical supplies like masks and that president Trump asked mask maker 3M not to supply masks and more to Canada and Latin America. Trump also bought up almost all stocks of Remdesivir, a drug used to treat coronavirus. (Further Reading)

Plus the world is experiencing infighting and global politics at its worst:
At G20 meeting of health ministers the intent was to strengthen WHO's mandate to coordinate fight against COVID-19 with a major focus on the process of crafting international agreements on any drugs or vaccines that successfully treat COVID-19. U.S. was the only country opposed to a statement that offered a framework for a united approach to fighting the pandemic and stopped funding WHO. (Further Reading)

The past has shown that poor developing nations don't have access to drugs that we in the industrialized world take for granted. Examples:

For the vast majority of the 325 million people living with hepatitis B or C, accessing testing and treatment remains beyond reach (Further Reading).
Without charitable donations by Big Pharma, for ages more than 75% of folks in developing world with hemophilia had little or no access to diagnosis and treatment. Those with severe hemophilia often did not survive to adulthood or, if they did, faced a life of severe disability and chronic pain (Further Reading).
Learning Points: If history repeats itself, COVID-19 will follow similar path. Folks in poor nations will be last to get the vaccine and treatments. And nations like USA whose POTUS puts America first, will try to gobble up most, leading to worldwide inequality in life-saving treatments. All at a time when the world needs to come together to fight a pandemic. 

As always, comments are most welcome and there are some.

First song I chose for the blog:

Back-up song you may enjoy is 'Money' from 1972's Cabaret film.
  • Money (by Lisa Minneli & Joel Grey)
Listed by date of news report

Trump buys up almost all stocks of Remdesivir, a drug used to treat coronavirus (1 July 2020)

Big pharma is taking big money from U.S. taxpayers to find a coronavirus vaccine  and charge whatever they want for it (24 June 2020)

Will coronavirus pandemic change Big Pharma's long-term focus? (15 June 2020)

Sanofi and Sobi donate up to 500 million additional IUs of clotting factor to WFH Humanitarian Aid Program (14 June 2020)

U.S. must stop blocking global effort to fight COVID-19 (23 Apr. 2020)

Big Pharma wants billions more for COVID-19 funding pot (21 Apr. 2020)

German, French officials accuse U.S. of diverting supplies (4 Apr. 2020)

WHO urges countries to invest in eliminating hepatitis (26 July 2019)