The coronavirus pandemic has shown the world wasn‚’t really ready for a pandemic, and the enormous costs involved in trying to control infectious diseases (both direct economic costs & wider health and wellbeing ones) once community spread has taken hold. But in the incredibly fast development of vaccines we have also seen how modern science can respond to give us the tools to keep us safe, but only once the threat is severe enough.
The issue is ‚’preparedness doesn‚’t pay”. For many potential health threats to us the science exists to provide the tools we need, but the finance doesn‚’t currently work. The problem is antibiotic resistance (or new viruses) are currently rare. So any new drug developed would only be used on a small number of people. Or, in the case of being prepared for potential threats, may not be used at all. To make the economics of researching and testing a new drug work that would mean you‚’d have to charge a very high price for it. And drug regulators in the UK (NICE) are important here. It‚’s their job to only approve cost effective drugs. Given these new drugs would have a very high price and would only be used on a very small number of people (if any) these regulators cannot approve a new drug. The price per life saved would be too high according to their existing approaches.
The only time that will change is once a lot people are getting really sick or dying from anti-biotic resistant bacteria or a new virus. So, smart money is waiting and not investing in helping us prepare for a future outbreak. Only once a future crisis gets bad enough to change the funding formula will money arrive. The funding only becomes available when it‚’s already too late.
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