Pharmaceutical Firms Need Incentives to Create Drugs and Vaccines against Emergent Threats

Pharmaceutical firms need incentives, including lucrative patents, to keep creating drugs and vaccines against emergent threats such as the H1N1 influenza pandemic, the World Health Organisation's head said on Tuesday.

"Progress in public health depends on innovation. Some of the greatest strides forward for health have followed the development and introduction of new medicines and vaccines," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

Chan, who last month declared a full pandemic underway from the H1N1 virus, said that patents can help ensure that companies develop medicines to "stay ahead of the development of drug resistance" in diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

The discovery of isolated H1N1 infections that resist the anti-viral Tamiflu, made by Roche and Gilead, and the global scramble to secure flu vaccines have shown the importance of robust research and development, Chan said.

"Innovation is needed to keep pace with the emergence of new diseases, including pandemic influenza caused by the new H1N1 virus," she told a meeting on intellectual property and health, a contentious issue that has divided rich and poor nations, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, a anwhile,Alpha reports.erzbank. sixth person in Suffolk County - and the eighth on Long Island - has died with the swine flu virus, county health officials said.

The Suffolk County medical examiner's office is scheduled to perform an autopsy Tuesday to determine if the woman, who was identified only as being between the ages of 40 and 50 and from the Town of Brookhaven, died as a result of the H1N1 influence virus, officials said.

The Suffolk Health Department commissioner, Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, said the woman experienced flu like symptoms on June 18, was hospitalized on June 25 and died Sunday. He said the woman had an underlying medical condition. Five previous deaths in Suffolk have been related to the swine flu, as have two deaths in Nassau, officials said, Newsday reports.

At the same time, the Associated Press yesterday reported that there would be no licensed swine flu vaccine until the end of the year. Apparently the yield of the active ingredient(s) from the swine flus being used is only about half of that of normal flu viruses.

As part of that article, AP cited British Health Minister Andy Burnham as saying the UK could see up to 100,000 cases per day by the end of August. Swine flu vaccine is supposed to start arriving in the UK in August (but not nearly enough to vaccinate everyone).

The numbers cited by Andy Burnham to be a little hard to believe. They may be to some extent a ploy to be first in line for swine flu vaccine. However, few government officials will completely fabricate numbers about matters as serious as this one.

There is likely some truth to the numbers. That famous London fog (damp and cold weather) may play a role in the predicted number of new swine flu cases. No one should completely discount this prediction. Certainly Andy Burnham is more expert than I. WHO has recorded only about 100,000 total cases worldwide to date, Seeking Alpha reports.