An MIT economist argues that botched incentives, rather than scientific hurdles, are frustrating the quest for an HIV vaccine. The point that jumped out at us the most:
It has become increasingly apparent that an HIV vaccine may need to be administered in combination with antiretroviral drugs, even if a stand-alone vaccine remains the ultimate goal for some researchers. In that case, we will need to create stronger incentives for manufacturers of antiretroviral drugs to get into the business of prevention. Right now, antiretroviral producers see HIV-infected people as their best customers.
A brutal judgment, perhaps, but certainly correct. Drug makers could do a lot to further the vaccine cause, especially since they harbor so much proprietary data created by their trials. But they have little incentive to share, since the development of a vaccine could eventually dinosaur their (for lack of a better term) “maintenance” business.
So how do we get these pharmaceutical rivals on the same page, without resorting to some sort of central planning method? And should government be the mediator that brings the two sides together?
The abstract of the full Health Affairs piece on the topic is here, but the PDF is behind a paywall. If anyone has access and can shed more light on the author’s proposed solution to creating an alliance between drug and vaccine makers, we’re all ears.