Well, yes, this is indeed a good thing.
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?