The pill umbrella
Drug research went from the public to the private sector just before World War II, with the hope that economic incentive would enable more drug discoveries. Consumers would assume they would keep in mind common health interest, assuming they had humanitarian values, but it is not what has happened.
Big pharmaceutical companies are driven by profit. Research and Development (R&D) might generate profits but only on the long-run (10+ years). The industry has been lobbying politicians for so-called clinical-trials but they are just a way for the big pharma companies to protect their market. Undeniably, they are very expensive to run and small players cannot afford them. On top of that, they are conducted in countries with poor law enforcement and high corruption with disastrous effects on the population health.
The financializing of the pharma industry, in the 1980s, led the pharmas to focus on short-term profits. They achieved that goal by cutting R&D and by rising the prices focusing on the profits of the shareholders (rather than ethics and long-term strategies).
Short-term interests for shareholders have prevailed even damaging the economic interests of the pharmas in the long run. R&D is essential to cure exiting diseases but also infections we assumed disappeared like small pox or swine flu.
Existing diseases came back as resisting bacteria because of a widespread useof antibiotics. Half of the worldwide production of antibiotics is administered to cattle (http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/93/4/15-030415.pdf) and 70% in the US (http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2016/12/antibiotics-and-animal-agriculture-a-primer).
In 1918, the swine flu (H1N1) killed more human beings that the whole World War I. Should it reappear through antibiotics resistance, casualties could be counted by the billion, considering the modern means of travelling.
Human beings are unknowingly fed with antibiotics. Indeed, sine 1950, 40% of the worldwide production of those drugs goes into livestock food. Otherwise the cattle couldn’t survive the harsh conditions of the industrial agriculture. “Given a choice between developing antibiotics that people will take every day for two weeks and antidepressants that people will take every day for ever, drug companies not surprisingly opt for the latter.
Although a few antibiotics have been toughened up a bit, the pharmaceutical industry hasn’t given us an entirely new antibiotic since the 1970s.” James Surowiecki, The New Yorker.
The solution is not to be found neither within the short-profit driven pharmas nor within governments which are easily subject to their influences.
The information era enables open science where individuals and smaller groups can share and discuss their research. The CERN have largely contributed to develop open science. CRISPR, which is developed by companies, universities and citizens, is the most promising healing method since decades.
Legislation must evolve to remove the financial burden of clinical trials, which prevent smaller players to release new drugs.
Scientific collaboration is not new, it already existed at the time of Louis Pasteur. This is explained in this document: The Beginning of International Collaboration at the CNRS: http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/169.htm
Bacteria Killers – The Story of Phage Therapy: https://www.arte.tv/en/videos/078693-000-A/bacteria-killers
Concerning the 1918 flu pandemic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic
The Constant Gardener, John Le Carré:
Pharma giants have cut research on psychiatric medicine by 70% in 10 years – The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/27/prozac-next-psychiatric-wonder-drug-research-medicine-mental-illness
Pfizer ends research for new Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s drugs – Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pfizer-alzheimers/pfizer-ends-research-for-new-alzheimers-parkinsons-drugs-idUSKBN1EW0TN
The Effects on Human Health of Subtherapeutic Use of Antimicrobials in Animal Feeds – NCBI (executive summary available for the busy ones): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK216502/
Current Model for Financing Drug Development: From Concept Through Approval – NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50972/
Is Open Science the Future of Drug Development – NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5369032/
The patent trap? Open science advocates want CRISPR technology to be free – CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/crispr-gene-editing-technology-patent-1.3888259
Changing R&D models in research-based pharmaceutical companies – NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4847363/
New bipartisan law backs increased funding and quicker approvals – The Harvard Gazette: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/the-changes-in-drug-research-testing/
Netflix – Dirty Money (2018) – Season 1 Episode 3 “Drug Short”
Open Science can save the planet – Kamila MARKRAM | TEDxBrussels
– How to biohack your cells to fight cancer – Greg Foot: https://youtu.be/Mt5C5fhuU_0