Big Pharma R&D New Respect

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The Economist May 23rd 2020 pp10 Big Pharma “Back in from the cold”. “An unpopular business has a shot at redemption”.

For a while now big pharma has been “despised by the public” for the perception or reality of “price-gouging, secretiveness and its neglect of global health problems”. Investors viewed the model as profitable but unsustainable being focused too much on “rent-seeking” without much innovation.

“The pandemic has reminded the world of the industry’s strengths-it capacity to innovate and provide drugs on a vast scale”. Even before the pandemic, pharma started increasing R&D spending and now “innovation is back in fashion”. Patent protections are loathed but understood as essential for driving R&D spending and protecting significant investments required to reach market. Going forward governments “should seek to authorize new drug patents faster, as the best way to balance innovation and lower prices”.

With the prospect of new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines some guidance is needed to guide global decision-making about appropriate distribution and pricing. In a case like the COVID-19 pandemic, compulsory licensing agreements might be needed to ensure access to treatments at tiered prices “of medicines and free vaccinations for disease affecting the world’s poor."