GlaxoSmithKline announced a breakthrough in clinical tests on a possible vaccine for bird flu. This is a piece of news, which could be welcomed with a smile. Viral diseases like bird flu cannot be stopped from causing death and wiping out entire populations if the virus cannot be prevented from jumping from one contaminated victim to the other. Stories of millions dying from viral diseases abound, until vaccines were discovered and the known diseases eradicated.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GlaxoSmithKline announced recently the news of a possible breakthrough in the quest for a vaccine. Many people expressed their happiness over this good news. However, any talk about possible financial benefits from the discovery have been avoided because the moment is to express joy over the development that have been bears the hallmark of a possible escape route for human beings from sufferings related to bird flu outbreaks and even a pandemic.
We all know that pharmaceutical companies work hard to develop cures for diseases so that the medication is produced commercially with great financial benefit to the inventor. However, the positive benefit to human kind is unmistakable and the business process involved in such a practice itself is beneficial as the business development itself brings untold benefits through jobs, trade, sharing of technology, money for more research and development leading to even more cures for other diseases and ultimately, the availability of drugs for all human kind through sharing of resources in a public and private partnership effort.
It is the public aspect of it that the Manager Communications of GlaxoSmithKline in Bangladesh Dr. Ashoke K. Roy, "emphasised at this juncture." In an interview with this scribe, he said: "The announcement by GSK of possible breakthrough in finding a vaccination for bird flu is a happy news. The price of the vaccine would be around £ 4.0 to 7.0 pounds making it a little expensive for the very poor people, therefore the GSK would like to also create awareness that public sector initiative would be needed to make any vaccine that is developed to be made available for the general public".
He added: "The medication available to fight bird flu are all only good enough to treat the symptoms, quite like dengue, there is no vaccination as yet and no single or multiple concoction of drugs that would work in a surefire way to stop bird flu". Therefore, it is necessary for the public sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to make the vaccination available to the public quickly when the vaccination package is produced by 2007 or later.
This was an executive telling the truth at a time when he could just make positive pronouncement about the potential benefit for mankind and no one would blame him simply because good sound bite would help his company look good and the spread of the good news is only natural. But Dr. Ashoke's pragmatic approach needs to be commended. The price of the vaccine would ultimately come down as market competition would take hold and other companies would come up with their own products.
Beximco Pharmaceuticals takes the lead in Bangladesh
"We have offered all support to the government in preparatory, preventive and planning efforts in dealing with bird flu" stated Mr. Rabbur Reza, Director Marketing, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd. in a separate interview with this scribe Beximco has given a large quantity on Oseltamivir to the government and has offered to help when it is needed. Posters have been made and shown to the government, and these posters will be given to the government for creating awareness, in a way that would not result any panicky reaction from the general public. In fact, the message of the poster is to avoid panic and the poster goes on to state some simple and basic tenets of being prepared against bird flu. Beximco has basically offered to be there full fledged, if the government needs the company's help.
This is an amazing example of social responsibility and has been done without seeking publicity. In fact, we found Beximco people willing to talk about the disease but there was no attempt to express their own efforts in a way that would bring attention to their efforts.
Come winter, when the migratory birds start to travel and come over to Bangladesh, we would have to ready to confront the possibility of contaminated birds within the shores of Bangladesh. We are happy to see that there is one company ready to offer assistance. Beximco has already sold the drug to Myanmar and is ready to export the drug in large quantities if and when the requirement arises.
Bird Flu has done a lot of damage in many countries. The result has been devastating, because an outbreak is accompanied by feeling of fear, after all vaccination cannot be performed so the disease cannot be prevented, and also the cure is not very definite, no direct cure only symptom based cure is available. In a situation like that, a country stands to lose quite lot in the tourism sector because some people will decide to stay away, and the poultry industry takes a beating because birds flu can be caused by being in the midst of chicken and also eating infected chicken and eggs from a chicken that is contaminated.
Bird flu has appeared in the doorsteps already with large amount of birds being found contaminated in nearby India and Myanmar. Bangladesh seems to be aware that the threat of bird flu is quite real. The government has stockpiled some drugs and also has thought about, and taken, some decisions that reflect a certain amount of preparedness. The private sector is also taking initiative and has offered the government material and real-time manhour and effort in tackling bird flu. When the time comes, the public should be made aware of the various strategies that can be taken individually and collectively so that we do not see our scarce resources to come under pressure. There is all hope that Bangladesh will do a good job in dealing with the threat of bird flu.