IDSA offers policy Rx for influenza vaccine shortage

y small compared to other fields of medicine, the public health need is great. Every year in the United States, influenza causes approximately 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations. Despite this critical need, pharmaceutical companies have pulled out of influenza vaccine production because it is financially risky and less profitable than other markets.

Because the flu virus changes from year to year, a new vaccine must be created each flu season. This is a difficult and time-consuming process. The demand for flu shots fluctuates from year to year as public interest waxes and wanes. Last influenza season, for example, 87 million doses of vaccine were made, but only 83 million doses were used. In recent flu seasons, as many as 13 million doses have gone unused and have had to be discarded. Given the challenges, many experts say it is not surprising that so few manufacturers see the market as viable. In the 1970s, there were several pharmaceutical companies producing flu vaccine for the United States. Now there are only two.

"It makes sense for the country to reinvest in the infectious diseases market," said Dr. Pavia. "Vaccines and antibiotics will help to save lives and should be cost-effective for society in the long run. Money we put into incentives should be returned by savings from decreased disease," he said.

"This is why IDSA has been urging federal policymakers to create new incentives--such as tax credits, strengthened intellectual property rights, liability protections, or some type of federally guaranteed purchase program--to make the infectious diseases market more attractive to industry," said John G. Bartlett, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chair of IDSA's Task Force on Antimicrobial Availability. Other ideas for making the market more attractive may be worth exploring, he added.

In July, IDSA published a major report, Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As

Contact: Diana Olson
Infectious Diseases Society of America

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