TITLE

Shot in the Arm

AUTHOR(S)
Brownlee, Shannon
PUB. DATE
May 2003
SOURCE
New Republic;5/12/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 18, p17
SOURCE TYPE
Periodical
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Reports on the failure of both the biotechnology industry and the pharmaceutical industry to create products to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). While SARS is rapidly turning into a health emergency in China and could have a serious impact in a virulent form in North America, biotech and pharmaceutical companies aren't exactly elbowing each other out of the way to come up with anti-SARS products. And both the United States government and the marketplace itself are to blame. Few, if any, companies have been willing to launch a full-scale search for drugs to fight SARS. In large part, the reason for their reticence is economic. In recent decades, the pharmaceutical industry has virtually abandoned the market for drugs designed to combat microbes such as the virus that causes SARS. Going after an emerging infectious disease demands that companies rearrange priorities, shift research funds, and even move personnel and laboratory equipment away from drugs they are currently developing. That's not a decision executives are going to make lightly without a clear sense of what the market for an ultimate product might be. Given the drug industry's unwillingness to focus on infectious diseases, the government may have to step in and support research on viruses like SARS. But, though the National Institutes of Health announced this week it was stepping up research on a SARS vaccine, the administration of President George W. Bush has not encouraged private-sector research. SARS is only an indicator of a wider trend. Just as the government has done little to encourage companies to research emerging viruses, so too has it failed to recognize the reality of what it will take to get drugs and vaccines to combat terrorism.
ACCESSION #
9709228

 

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