- Jim Stanford points out that the choice to leave drug development to the market resulted in a promising ebola vaccine going unused - and indeed untested - for years until the disease threatened a wealthy enough target population:
Canada’s outstanding work to invent one of the world’s most promising vaccines against Ebola perfectly epitomizes both the promise of public research, and the perverse incentives of the for-profit industry. Early this century Health Canada recognized the need for an Ebola vaccine, and assigned scientists with the Public Health Agency of Canada to find one. Almost a decade ago they patented a vaccine that prevents Ebola in monkeys. Canadian researchers should have been hailed as heroes.- And Carol Goar exposes the use of Canada's public health care system for medical tourism, rather than to provide needed care to citizens.
Unfortunately, the government snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by handing over this important invention to the private sector – for a pittance. In 2010 Ottawa licensed the Ebola vaccine to a small U.S. firm called NewLink Genetics. I’ve been asking Health Canada to explain how the licensing was negotiated, and how much Canada was paid; I have yet to receive an answer. NewLink’s financial filings report it paid Canada an initial patent and signing fee, and a “milestone” payment of up to $205,000; “low single-digit” royalty fees will be payable on future commercial sales.
Most distressingly, guided by the profit-maximizing calculations of NewLink’s executives, the promising vaccine languished for years with no human testing – until this year’s outbreak. NewLink has suddenly rediscovered a sense of urgency, and is now accelerating human tests: but too late for thousands whose lives could have been saved if a vaccine was ready now. Even with the licence, Ottawa could have forced NewLink to move more quickly (or else revoke the licence altogether), but chose not to interfere. In the words of the University of Ottawa’s Amir Attaran, an expert on drug policy and public health, “This could have been a heroic Banting and Best moment for Canadian science, but instead it is a black comedy.”
Motivated by their government salaries and a desire to do good, smart Canadians can develop incredible medicines that significantly enhance human life. It’s only when the whole business becomes guided by profit, instead of human need, that this noble mission is lost.
- The Star weighs in on the Cons' latest income-splitting scheme and rightly concludes that a few tweaks around the edges can't justify a deliberate transfer of billions of dollars to disproportionately benefit wealthy families.
- Alan Tovey reports on KPMG's study showing that millions of workers in the UK are scraping by on less than a living wage. And Trish Hennessy looks at the numbers on our insufficient minimum wage levels in Canada.
- Mike De Souza reports on ExxonMobil's efforts to get him not to report on ALEC's shady dealings - including an ominous warning that other media have been entirely happy to fall in line with orders from their corporate overlords not to examine how big money is affecting policy debates. Andrew Prokop points out how the need for constant fund-raising makes it a challenge for U.S. political candidates to keep the public good in mind, while Democracy Now and Emily Atkin each document examples of the oil lobby flat-out buying municipal elections. And David Ball confirms that the Koch brothers have been funnelling money to the Fraser Institute's corporatist projects for decades, while Mark Eliesen explains his conclusion that the National Energy Board has joined the list of institutions which have been completely co-opted by corporate owners.
- Finally, Murray Dobbin has a few questions for Stephen Harper arising out of the tragic shootings in Ottawa. And Joan Bryden reports on Harper's refusal to discourage any anti-Muslim backlash.