Glaxo and malaria

Well, yes, this is indeed a good thing.

The chief executive of the world\’s second biggest pharmaceutical company will today announce that he is putting into the public domain thousands of potential drugs that might cure malaria.

Andrew Witty, the British boss of Glaxo-SmithKline, will say in a major speech that multinational drug companies have to balance social responsibility alongside the need to make profits for their shareholders. There is, he will say, an \”imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them\”.

However, cynic that I am, I think there\’s more to this than simple social responsibility by big business.

If Glaxo were in fact able to create an effective malaria vaccine, even a sure shot cure for it (rather than the prophylactics of varying effectiveness that we do have), there\’s absolutely no way that they would be allowed to try and sell it at a profitable price. \”Civil society\” simply wouldn\’t let that happen.

So there\’s no point in their paying the $1 billion or so it would take to get such a vaccine or drug treatment through the testing and approval process, even if they had a drug that worked.

By opening their books they might indeed aid in finding such a drug or vaccine. But they\’ve also managed to dump those testing and approval costs onto the world in general.

It\’s actually going to be quite interesting. There are any number of people out there who insist that Big Pharma ain\’t the way to develop new treatments. And in terms of the lab work they might even be right (W. Baumol, the economist all over the invention and innovation beat, doesn\’t think that capitalism/markets are all that important for invention. However, they very much are for innovation.) but whether they are in terms of getting the new discovery to market we\’re perhaps about to find out.

So, let us say that of those 13,500 potentially valuable compounds that they\’ve released here, some hundred or two hundred show promise. And let\’s, just for the sake of argument, say that 10 need to go throuogh the whole testing rigmarole.

So, who is going to pay the $10 billion then if it ain\’t Glaxo?

Hmm, actually, let\’s be properly cynical about this. It\’s not just that they would never be allowed to use an effective anti-malarial as a profit centre. We might also see this as a gauntlet thrown down to those who oppose the Big Pharma method.

OK, if we\’re so shite at it and your ideas are so much better, go on then, prove it. If yer \’ard enough.

Interesting time ahead?

6 thoughts on “Glaxo and malaria”

  1. Have the patents run out on them or something?

    Only last time something like this happened was the sudden revelation that ulcers were caused by bacteria just as the antacid patents ran out.

  2. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    We could of course cure malaria overnight; a solution to the problem exists, and is called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.

    But greenies and leftists would sooner have millions die than endanger the habitat of the lesser-spotted tree weevil.

  3. Brian, sadly, DDT is not the only answer, it works to kill mosquito’s, but unless used very carefully, they quite rapidly build up resistance to it. Used judiciously though and it is an excellent weapon, more so because it kills and repels.

    The old problem was it was so good at killing unwanted bugs it got sprayed far too widely, where it killed more than the bad bugs, and it led to widespread resistance. We are, one hopes, a bit smarter now, but I would still want careful controls on it’s use, used badly it will cease to be so useful.

  4. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    You’re quite correct, Ed. But the stuff is quite capable of reducing the problem to a small fraction of its current proportions and thus save millions of lives a year.

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