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New Alzheimer’s Vaccine Highlights Value of America’s Pharmaceutical Sector

AMAC Concierge Medicine vaccine Pharmaceutical sector Alzheimer's AlzheimerIs there a more dreaded or dreadful disease than Alzheimer’s?

According to a Marist Institute survey, it now maintains a 44% to 31% lead over cancer as the most feared disease among Americans.

Heart disease, cancer, accidents, respiratory disease and strokes exceed Alzheimer’s as a cause of death in the United States.  But its increasing prevalence as life expectancy increases and cures for those other diseases accumulate continue to elevate it among the leading fears for an aging population.

The fact that Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented or anticipated, unlike those other causes of death, only increases its fearsomeness.

This month, however, wonderful news arrived in the ongoing and frustrating battle against Alzheimer’s.  Namely, a new vaccine may slash the incidence of dementia in half, as reported by the Associated Press:

A DNA vaccine, tested on mice, which could have a major impact on the development of Alzheimer’s disease, may soon be headed to clinical trials in humans.  According to a new study published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, the experimental vaccine reduced the accumulation of two types of toxic proteins believed to be a cause of Alzheimer’s, without any adverse effects like brain swelling. 

The decade-long study was conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.  “If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for the patients and their families,” said Dr. Doris Lambracht-Washington, the study’s senior author.  “The number of dementia cases could drop by half.” 

Apparently, earlier vaccines that had shown promise tended to cause intolerably dangerous levels of brain swelling in patients, unlike this new advance.

That’s incredibly welcome news in the frustratingly slow fight against Alzheimer’s.  But it also highlights once again the value of America’s innovative but unfairly maligned pharmaceutical industry.

The fact is that America’s disproportionate lead over the rest of the world in pharmaceutical development might exceed its advantage in any other meaningful realm.  We only account for 4% of the world’s population, and 24% of the global economy, according to the World Bank.  But America accounts for an astonishing two-thirds of all new drugs introduced to the world.  The next-closest nation behind the U.S. is Japan at approximately 10%, with all of Europe accounting for about the same portion.

That’s partly the result of America’s unique legacy of intellectual property (IP) protections.  Our very Constitution protects IP rights in its text, and year after year we lead the world in measurements of IP protection.  It’s therefore no coincidence that we stand unrivaled as the most innovative and prosperous nation in human history, with no close second.  On everything from aeronautics to computer technology, from our motion picture industry to our music industry, from the Coca-Cola logo to the Apple icon, our system of protecting patents, copyright, trademark and trade secrets has cultivated our inventiveness and wealth.

And our pharmaceutical sector offers yet another illustration of that legacy.

Unfortunately, that status is not guaranteed forever.  In fact, recent proposals threaten to weaken our position in the pharmaceutical realm.

In October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) perplexingly announced support for drug price controls for pharmaceuticals covered by Medicare Part B.  Simply stated, the proposed system would determine drug payments based upon an “international pricing index” that uses foreign nations’ government price controls as a benchmark.

That amounts to a backdoor method for bringing socialized medicine’s price controls from overseas here to America, rather than exporting our IP protections and innovativeness abroad.

As even the World Health Organization (WHO) admits, the effect will be fewer new drugs like the new vaccine that could slash dementia in half:

Every time one country demands a lower price, it leads to a lower price reference used by other countries.  Such price controls, combined with the threat of market lockout or intellectual property infringement, prevent drug companies from charging market rates for their products, while delaying the availability of new cures to patients living in countries implementing those policies. 

It’s therefore no accident that Americans can access approximately 95% of new pharmaceuticals, compared to just 74% of British, 49% of Japanese and 8% of Greek consumers, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Without our IP protections and market incentive to produce new drugs, other nations simply don’t have access to them.

But if we foolishly import their systems of price controls here, as the HHS proposes, we’ll find ourselves suffering the same fate.

As the new Alzheimer’s vaccine illustrates, that’s a scenario too grim to invite.

Reprinted with permission from - CFIF.org - by Timothy H. Lee

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