The pharmaceutical industry has stepped up in a big way in search of vaccines and effective treatments for COVID-19. One reference cited at least 250 drugs and 95 vaccines under investigation related to COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown the societal value of having a pharmaceutical industry with a robust capability to develop new medicines and to operate in an economic system that encourages innovation. The balanced US public policy approach rewards pharmaceutical risk-taking needed to generate novel medicines through a patent system of limited duration, while encouraging an abbreviated process for entry of lower-cost copies of generics and biosimilars after patents expire to allow for broader public access. The result of this balanced approach is evidenced in the industry’s response to the call to find COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
This short commentary looks at the following questions as a result of the pharmaceutical industry’s extensive efforts to find vaccines and treatments for COVID-19:
- Will these extensive efforts translate into an improved image that could mitigate adverse-effect policy efforts by those who have been critical of the industry?
- What should the industry expect in the public policy area in 2020 and beyond in 2021?
Analytics will be the key in providing the supporting evidence of how such tampering of the current reward system will adversely affect future drug R&D, decrease the diffusion of new drug technology, lower health outcomes, and increase total treatment costs. Analytics will also be needed to demonstrate clearly the societal value of pharmaceutical innovation in order to prevent public policy measures designed to weaken the ability of the industry to address future unmedical needs and counter societal threats like COVID-19.
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