CHICAGO, April 29 (UPI) -- The lack of profits from vaccine hampers the response to flu outbreaks, like the swine flu problem that began in Mexico, U.S., a professor said.
The appropriate medical response requires "production capacity to develop and produce a vaccine in a short period of time and then potentially not use it for years," Dr. John Flaherty, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University said in a Chicago Tribune report Wednesday.
At the same time, "there is the anxiety on the part of the manufacturers that this could be another false alarm," Flaherty said.
Last year, vaccine producers took in $4.9 billion. Pfizer Inc., in contrast, earned $8 billion for just one of its drugs, Lipitor, a treatment for high cholesterol, and AstraZeneca PLC's drug Nexium, a heartburn pill, generated $6 billion sales revenues.
The Bush administration awarded about $1 billion to companies to develop techniques for faster vaccine production, as companies still use production techniques developed in the 1940s.
By relying on private companies in a response to epidemics, the bottom line includes profit margins.
"I don't believe they don't make money on vaccines," said Dr. Robert Daum, former chairman of the Food and Drug Administration's flu vaccine advisory committee.