It is being reported from two British sources that the top drug companies in the world rejected the proposal to work on vaccines like coronavirus in the year 2017.
The proposal to work on these vaccines was given from the European Union and advised companies to work on pathogens like coronavirus before an outbreak could happen. All the companies involved did not take up the offer.
Exclusive: big pharma rejected EU plan to fast-track vaccines in 2017. The plan was put forward by EU representatives in the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – but it was rejected by #Pharmaindustryhttps://t.co/TL0qZ1Rcwf #coronavirus #COVID19 #medtech #vaccines #medicines
— Alex von Witzleben (@AlexWitzleben) May 25, 2020
The plan was initially proposed by the European commission representatives in the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).
All of this was stated in a report published by the Corporate Observatory Europe (COE), which is a Brussels-based research center. The role of COE is to study decisions taken b the IMI.
IMI is basically a partnership between public and private entities which sponsor’s research in Europe, with a budget of €5bn (£4.5bn).
IMI’s governing body has direct ties with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries (EFPIA), whose members include GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Lilly and Johnson & Johnson.
This pandemic has caused many allegations to fly around. Chief among them that these companies failed to effectively work on infectious diseases and instead worked on chronic medical conditions like cancer which are more profitable.
This is true according to the Bloomberg Intelligence which recently claimed that that among 400 new products taken by these drug companies in the past year, half were focused on treating cancer, compared with 65 on infectious diseases.
Right now, 100s of vaccines are being tested and the chief among them to get approval by the oxford university has just 50 percent chance of getting an approval.
The report shows that along with rejecting many innovative proposals, IMI also decided to not fund projects of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation that works on emerging pathogens like coronavirus, MERS, SARS, and is now at the forefront of this pandemic.
IMI in response to this report said that infectious diseases and vaccines had been a priority from the start and they also gave an example of the project called Zapi launched in 2015, with a funding of €20m which is involved in bio-preparedness, after Ebola pandemic.
— IMI (@IMI_JU) October 23, 2018
According to the IMI, it also launched funding to accelerate vaccine development and manufacturing in January as well.
#Coronavirus: some details on the 8 #COVID19 projects provisionally selected for €117 million worth of IMI funding. #IMICarryTheTorch#UnitedAgainstCoronavirus #ClinicalTrialsDay @EFPIA pic.twitter.com/Dfy38xPEc6
— IMI (@IMI_JU) May 20, 2020
The spokesperson for the initiative also expressed that at the time in 2017, there were many avenues that needed attention like tuberculosis, auto-immune diseases and digital health.
The COE report also highlighted that IMI’s research agenda is more focused on the needs of pharma industry and it sidelines the diseases that do not provide monetary benefits, including coronaviruses.
There were positive aspects of IMI in the report as well. The main positive thing about the initiative in the report was that it had enabled competing pharma companies to work together with small and medium-sized businesses and academia.
Now questions are being raised that should IMI be allowed to be the “main driver” of the innovative medicines in Europe.
The COE report highlighted that IMI is also responsible for a lack of funding of diseases pinpointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) Report on Priority Medicines for Europe and the World as of public health importance.
Horizon 2020: Report on Priority Medicines for Europe and the World. http://t.co/NrjxuyDF87
— EUandIntNcl (@EUandIntNcl) July 22, 2013
These diseases are being ignored by the IMI and treatment for them are either inadequate or do not even exist.
7 out of the 25 identified areas by the WHO, have no IMI projects, including postpartum hemorrhage, and neonatal conditions. The current projects by the IMI are all related to Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and to cancer.
Though these diseases require attention, there is a widespread interest in them already. This leaves the question. Is the IMI spending the EU’s money responsibly?
The IMI, however, is defending its position and says that the third of its budget was spent on the infectious diseases like Ebola, and on vaccines and antimicrobial resistance.