To the Editor:
Re “Big Pharma Is Fooling Us,” by Stephen Buranyi (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, Dec. 17):
Mr. Buranyi claims that Big Pharma staged a “public relations coup” by taking credit for vaccine breakthroughs that “wouldn’t exist without public support through every step of their development.” He argues that the companies should waive their patents.
Without Big Pharma’s capital and technical know-how, we wouldn’t have Covid-19 vaccines at all — much less two approved in less than a year and others expected within months.
The government does fund academic researchers, who make important discoveries on basic scientific questions. But Big Pharma and small biotechs take huge risks to turn those insights into real-world medicines. Biopharmaceutical firms invested $102 billion in research and development in 2018 — roughly three times what the National Institutes of Health spent that year.
Private drug companies fund the lion’s share of R&D, including for Covid-19. It’s only fair they take credit for their lifesaving breakthroughs.
The writer is president of the Center for Innovation and Free Enterprise.
To the Editor:
Stephen Buranyi injects a jab of sanity into the epidemic of gratitude toward Big Pharma for the “miracle” of creating Covid-19 vaccines. Public investments made their discovery possible, and public pressure is needed to gain public control over production and to provide global access. As Mr. Buranyi counsels, we should seize the moment to rein in a self-serving industry used to deciding who lives and who dies.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The writer is a researcher in health and pharmaceutical policy.
To the Editor:
The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries can certainly be criticized for past misdeeds and current behaviors. But perhaps for just one moment in this pandemic we can acknowledge an astounding victory.
The polio epidemic terrorized the world until a decades-long global vaccination effort essentially eliminated it. The Salk and Sabin vaccines were monumental advances that took many years to emerge from the time the epidemic was identified.
How times have changed! Within weeks of recognizing a new respiratory illness, the pathogen causing Covid-19 was identified as SARS-CoV-2. Less than a year later the Pfizer vaccine is being given to those most in need. The vaccine was designed by a German-Turkish couple who head a German biotech company using core technology developed at the University of Pennsylvania.
Its worldwide clinical development was undertaken by an American company, and it is manufactured in both Belgium and the United States. That we have this vaccine is both a scientific tour de force and an unprecedented example of international collaboration.
We should celebrate this astounding achievement as an example of what humankind is capable of if we work together for the common good.
Ted Torphy has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for over 35 years.
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