Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More on "Bird Flu"

Anne Applebaum has a great op-ed in the Washington Post about the American response to the Avian Flu and its potential threat to humanity. She focuses on a few problems that don't allow the government to handle this potential situation in the right way. I want to focus on one of them.

Applebaum talks about the general disgust people have with pharmaceutical companies. I personally think some of it is well deserved, given the amount of money the charge the American consumer and also how they have kept disturbing news from the American public (ie: Merck with Vioxx).

With that said, it has been "Big Pharma" that has come up with some wonderful drugs that have helped people. Currently, I'm on two antidepressants and Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drig. The pharmacuetical companies have their drawbacks, but they also make drugs that improve people's health. We need to find ways to get them to produce drugs and vaccines that can innoculate us from pandemics, whether it's the bird flu or smallpox release by a terrorist group. That means the government might have to give them some money to aid in their research. Yes, you may not like giving money to a big company like Pfizer, but they maybe what stands between us and something ala The Stand.

I would also add that I think Congress and the President need to get cracking on passing some kind of bill that gives pharmacueticals immunity from litigation. This is one of the reasons the drug companies don't do much by way of vaccine work. Anyone can tell you that any vaccine runs the risk of affecting the people who take it. That leads to people then wanting to sue the company who makes a vaccine for whatever disease, which then leads companies to abandon research. Lawyers and some anti-corperate groups might not like it, but there needs to be some kind of shield or at least limit from lawsutis to allow these companies to make vaccines.

Vaccines are important. We have seen them end polio and other childhood diseases and even deadly ones like smallpox. Many are saying that the only way to stop AIDS is to develop a vaccine. So, government should be working with drug companies on this. I know this phrase is overused, but we need a "Manhattan Project" to combabt bio threats. We need to have plans so that as Applebaum said, vaccines can be made in weeks, not months of an outbreak.

Let's stop planning short term and let's look down the road instead.


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