Monday, October 24, 2005
Avian flu economics
Amidst increased fears of the possible breakout of a bird flu pandemic, it was only a matter of time before someone's capitalistic instincts kicked in to attempt and make the most amount of money out of the whole ordeal.
When news first came out about the disease, it was pointed out that a single drug, Tamiflu produced by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, can be effective in fighting the flu. If you check the date on the Tamiflu link above, you can see that information about the drug's effectiveness was known since early last year. When worries about the disease escalated this fall, many reports came out about the lack of readiness of many countries, including the US, in terms of appropriate stockpiles of the known effective drug to fight the flu. Roche was still the only man
ufacturer and the news simply said that they cannot keep up with the large demand for the drug, that countries were on a waiting list, and the drug would be delivered on a first come first served basis.
Now kudos to Roche for owning Tamiflu, I'm all for them making large profits from their products, heck I even wish I would've bought some Roche stocks back in early 2004... but you need to supply enough drugs for the demand! It's only now that Roche is in negotiations to license production of the drug by other companies. But Taiwan, in true East Asian disregard to patent laws, took matters into their own hands and decided to copy the drug. "Taiwan officials said they had applied for the right to copy the drug - but the priority was to protect the public." I say, good for them.
The story won't be complete without mentioning the eBay connection, yes you've guessed it listings started to appear on ebay for selling the drug, it's the wonderful world we live in.
And to close on an even grimmer note, Tamiflu is not an answer-all drug for the flu, there have been reported cases of the virus resisting the drug.