[OPE-L] Bloody Capital: innovation and anti-innovation in the pharmaceutical industry

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon Dec 26 2005 - 17:38:33 EST

How many more will die unnnecessarily before this system dies?
In solidarity, Jerry

Researcher: Drug Firms Won't Develop AIDS Vaccine
           Pharmaceutical companies deny federal health official's
           charge they lack incentives

                              By JOHN SOLOMON
                              & ASSOCIATED PRESS
                              Published on 12/26/2005

                              Washington — In an unusually candid
admission, the federal chief of AIDS
research says he believes drug companies
don't have an incentive to create a vaccine
for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit
from it after the government develops one.

                              And that means the government has had to
spend more time focusing on the processes
that drug companies ordinarily follow in
developing new medicines and bringing them
to market.

                              “We had to spend some time and energy
paying attention to those aspects of
development because the private side isn't
picking it up,” Dr. Edmund Tramont
testified in a deposition in a recent
employment lawsuit obtained by The
Associated Press.

                              Tramont is head of the AIDS research
division of the National Institutes of
Health, and he predicted in his testimony
that the government will eventually create a
vaccine. He testified in July in the
whistleblower case of Dr. Jonathan Fishbein.

                              “If we look at the vaccine, HIV vaccine,
we're going to have an HIV vaccine. It's not
going to be made by a company,” Tramont
said. “They're dropping out like flies
because there's no real incentive for them
to do it. We have to do it.

                              “They will eventually — if it works,
they won't have to make that big investment.
And they can make it and sell it and make a
profit,” he said.

                              An official of the group representing the
country's major drug companies took sharp
exception to Tramont's comments.

                              “That is simply not true. America's
pharmaceutical research companies are firmly
committed to HIV/AIDS vaccine research and
development with 15 potential vaccines in
development today,” said Ken Johnson,
senior vice president of PhRMA, the
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of

                              “Vaccine research is crucial to
controlling the AIDS pandemic and our
companies are well aware of the need to
succeed in this vital area of science,”
Johnson said.

                              In an e-mail response for comment, Tramont
said the HIV vaccine mirrors the history of
other vaccines. “It is not just a HIV
vaccine — it's all vaccines — that is
why there was/is a shortage of flu
vaccines,” Tramont wrote.

                              The quest for an AIDS vaccine has been one
of science's biggest disappointments despite
billions of dollars and years of research.
Part of the dilemma is that such a vaccine
must work through the very immune system
that AIDS compromises.

                              The failure in the last couple years of one
of the more promising vaccine candidates has
bred some frustration.

                              The United Nations' top HIV/AIDS official
acknowledged earlier this year at a
conference that it was no longer realistic
to hope that the world will meet its goal of
halting and reversing the spread of the
pandemic by 2015. A British delegate to that
conference predicted it might take 20 years
before such a vaccine is created.

                              The International AIDS Vaccines Initiative,
a not-for-profit group that is pushing for
an AIDS vaccine, said there are more than 30
vaccine candidates being tested mostly on a
small scale in 19 counties, but it
acknowledges many are pursuing a similar
theory of science that may prove futile.

                              “If the hypothesis is proven incorrect,
the pipeline of candidates now in trials
will be rendered mostly irrelevant. Strong
alternative hypotheses have been largely
neglected,” the group said.

                              IAVI estimates total annual spending on an
AIDS vaccine is $682 million.

                              “This represents less than 1% of total
spending on all health product
development,” IAVI said. “Private sector
efforts amount to just $100 million
annually. This is mainly due to the lack of
incentives for the private sector to invest
in an AIDS vaccine — the science is
difficult, and the developing countries that
need a vaccine most are least able to

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