Running ahead of Pandemics: Achieving In-Advance Antiviral Drugs
7 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 31, 2020
Three months into the COVID-19 outbreak caused by a novel strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the world is still in search of an effective therapeutic drug. Experimental drugs developed for other infections, such as Gilead’s remdesivir, have been repurposed with unclear success. A recent small study suggests that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin used in combination may speed up recovery.2 However, if any of these repurposed drugs prove effective, it will be a matter of good fortune, not good preparedness. We must shift from the hope of just-in-time drugs toward the promise of in-advance therapeutics by developing broad-spectrum drugs.
These drugs, however, confront a market failure: what firm will invest millions developing a drug for a nonexistent pandemic market? To overcome this confrontation, public policy can introduce adequate incentives for these investments to occur. I propose adopting innovation prizes with awards large enough to justify investments in broad-spectrum antiviral drugs developed up to phase III clinical trials in the FDA drug approval process. I also emphasize the importance of starting this effort with pathogen families of known pandemic potential, such as respiratory viruses.
Keywords: healthcare, coronavirus, coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, public health, economics, quarantine, economy, economic crisis
JEL Classification: H51, H75, I00, I13, I18, L65, O00, L50, L51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation