Big pharma and the tricky balance between new drugs and profits
The vaccine market currently returns a profit of around $24bn (£18bn) to the pharmaceutical industry; however, according to the report Global Human Vaccines Market 2016-2020, which predicts huge growth in this sector, the figure is estimated to reach $64bn (£48.5bn) by 2020.
Much of this expansion in profit will be achieved through the production of new vaccines and the expanding production of established vaccines due to the increasing incidence of infectious diseases, particularly in developing countries. It is this increase in demand that sees the manufacturing process use machinery such as Vacuum conveying from companies such as https://www.aptech.uk.com/pneumatic-conveying-systems/vacuum-conveying to hygienically move the drugs around the manufacturing plants and preparing them for packaging.
To vaccinate or not?
The anti-vaccine lobby group considers that vaccinations are linked to autism and has suggested that the drive by doctors and companies to vaccinate children worldwide is purely financially based; however, this has been somewhat discredited. According to Economist magazine, the vaccine industry has been historically neglected due to poor margins and old technology, and doctors rarely make any profit from a vaccination programme.
The cost of vaccine production is high due to the rigorous requirements for chemical research and trials, which may eventually lead to an ineffective, unsaleable product. This is why the clinical and medical trials processes are often run by outsourced agencies that follow rigorous process and procedures for each of their trials.
Vaccination is promoted by both pharmaceutical companies and interested authorities worldwide. A suggested list of vaccinations and the timing for the administration of these in the UK is provided by the NHS, for example, while an interesting summary of the pros and cons of vaccinating children in the US is provided by the non-profit charity ProCon.
Profits in the vaccine industry
Since the turn of the millennium, the vaccine market has grown substantially in both the developed and undeveloped world, with profits for innovative companies soaring. This has been partially due to the introduction of two new vaccines with huge medical impact: pneumococcal conjugate against meningitis and the controversial new vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV).
Corporations exist to make profits, but does this factor alone motivate the pharmaceutical industry? Current profit margins for most vaccines run at 10% to 40%, which are the highest margins associated with any marketed pharmaceutical drug.
It is to be hoped that some level of altruism motivates the production of vaccines and there appears to be no doubt that childhood vaccination saves millions of lives a year worldwide.