A view on the pharmaceutical sector
Keywords:  Human health; Public acceptance
Correct citation: nn. (1995), "Editorial: A view on the pharmaceutical sector." Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 25, p. 2-3.

It has never been a secret that most profits in the biotechnology industry are expected in the pharmaceutical sector. For example, 70 per cent of the US sales  of biotechnology products are biopharmaceuticals for humans. The most important candidates for new therapies are against cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and growth ‘disorders’. New vaccines are being developed for AIDS, hepatitis B, and herpes. It is obvious that most of the research is targeted at the needs of the developed world. For developing countries, a significant role is therefore reserved for the domestic public sector and the international agencies such as the World Health Organization.

India is an example of a country where the public sector is active in the field of pharmaceuticals. By the use of biotechnology, new vaccines are being developed and poor performing conventional ones are being replaced, while at the same time a domestic R&D and production capability is build-up. Sachin Chaturvedi and Beena Pandey report that India has become self-reliant in the production of vaccines for some diseases including tuberculosis and tetanus.

Although the aim of the national and international public sector is to conduct research in the general interest of the public, the perception of what exactly is the public interest is controversial. In this Monitor issue, two, both financed by the private and the public sector, endeavours are discussed: the development of anti-fertility vaccines and the Human Genome project.
Although she agrees that women are in need of safe and more convenient contraceptive methods, Ute Sprenger states that anti-fertility vaccines jeopardize the health of women and make them dependent on the provider of the vaccine instead of increasing their autonomy over their own fertility. Many share this opinion, as illustrated by the recent call of more than 400 women’s health groups from 40 different countries to end anti-fertility vaccine research. Whether the voice of these groups will be taken seriously is doubtful, since many scientists are likely to envisage the problems related to the vaccine only as temporarily and of a technical nature.

The Human Genome Project, discussed by René von Schomberg and Peter Wheale, is another heavily debated research initiative. Although insight is gained in the origins of some human diseases, it also provides tools to discriminate in employment, personal insurance, between others, on the basis of genetic characteristics. Again, technological advancement moves faster than the necessary regulation is developed.

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