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Commentary

Commentary: Stopping the flu pandemic
David Longtin, Henry Miller, M.S., M.D., Washington Times, 1-3-05

After World War I, the “Spanish Flu…killed an estimated 40 million to 50 million people” around the globe. Could the world be headed for another devastating pandemic flu outbreak? “Experts are virtually certain another flu pandemic will eventually occur, either naturally or as a result of laboratory strains developed as bioterror weapons.”

What can we do to stop it? In theory, “vaccination and antiviral drugs” could be used to quarantine and halt an epidemic, “but current vaccine production methods and stockpiles of antiviral medications are woefully inadequate for a genuine emergency.” Miller and Longtin instead call for a “quantum leap in technology”, including “gene-splicing techniques to make [new vaccines],” but note that what is really slowing the development of new flu treatments is that “the major purchaser of most vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extracts huge discounts from manufacturers. Arbitrary and excessive regulation also block progress. As a result, innovation has suffered and vaccine producers have abandoned the field in droves, leaving only four major manufacturers and a few dozen products.”

To overcome these handicaps, Miller and Longtin want the government to increase funding for research on new vaccine technologies, stop demanding huge price discounts that discourage market entrants, and “pursue ‘reciprocity agreements on approvals [among international regulators] so vaccines and antiviral drugs licensed in certain foreign countries can be marketed in the U.S.”



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