Smart Pfizer and compulsory MMR

The Wall Street Journal yesterday highlighted how smart Pfizer had been in acquiring the vaccines manufacturer Wyeth. With the blockbuster business model for pharma having been on the wane for some time, it’s been imperative for all pharma to develop a new model to ensure their survival. Other models include focusing on niche-busters such as Gleevec (a targeted cancer drug) or orphan drugs such as Cerezyme (for the rare Gaucher disease); another is developing biosimilars and this is where Wyeth’s vaccine expertise has come in very handy. Most biological medicines (developed from living systems or organisms) consist of such large molecules that they have to be administered by injection or infusion. The great hope is that these biologicals will not only offer different treatment options but enable treatment of disease that was previously beyond the scope of traditional chemical medicines. Biosimilars are copy-cat versions of the original innovative biological medicine, but because the manufacturing process is much more complex than for traditional medicines, it’s not hard to genuinely make the claim that your product is ‘similar’ but not the same, as opposed to generic medicines that cannot claim to have a different active ingredient from the original formulation. It’s complex.

As biologics are the fasting growing sector of the pharma market, other companies such as Eli Lilly who acquired Imclone last year have seen this innovative market as worth the investment. But on the ground it will be interesting to see whether the corollary to this trend for biologics is that vaccine delivery of medicines becomes more ‘acceptable’, as in the news today is a call from the Lancashire Director of Public Health that MMR should be made compulsory for school attendance. Although uptake of the MMR has been gradually improving in most areas of the country, Andrew Wakefield’s disastrous legacy of MMR suspicion lingers. Certification of immunisation is compulsory for access to state education in France and in many American States. Personally I totally support this and consider it negligent not to immunise children against infections that can cause serious problems not just for the individual but for those around them too.



About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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