Matthew Lynn

In praise of Big Pharma

In praise of Big Pharma
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In the last decade, the mega corporation has taken a lot of stick from just about everyone. But hold on. It is just about to rescue us from the worst global crisis since world war two.

Drugs giant Pfizer — part of the Big Pharma — has announced that its Covid-19 vaccine was effective in trials. It looks safe as well. It may well be approved before the end of 2020. With luck we should have a few million doses this year, and a billion by next year. AstraZeneca may not be far behind with the Oxford vaccine. And a few more are on the way. With a safe effective vaccine, a world that has been plunged into chaos can start getting back to normal. Lockdowns can be ended. Mass unemployment can be avoided. The threat of bankruptcy will be lifted from millions of business. And a few hundred thousand lives will be saved.

When you pause to think about it, that is an amazing achievement. A novel vaccine for a new virus will have been developed, approved, and started rolling off production lines (and let's remember that vaccines are not easy things to manufacture) in less than twelve months. Nothing like that has ever been done before. Many people doubted it was even possible.

The only organisation capable of achieving that is a mega corporation. It takes money and investment. It takes expertise. And it takes organisational and logistical skills on a huge scale. There are some other organisations that have one or two of those qualities. But only the private multi-national corporation has all three. No other institution does, nor could any other have delivered what appears to be a working vaccine so quickly.

We can criticise multinational companies all we want. We can blame them for creating half the world's problems. But in a crisis it is worth remembering just how useful they are. Probably no one will say thank you, or keep that in mind next time they are blamed for something or other. But they should.

Written byMatthew Lynn

Matthew Lynn is a financial columnist and author of ‘Bust: Greece, The Euro and The Sovereign Debt Crisis’ and ‘The Long Depression: The Slump of 2008 to 2031’

Topics in this articlePolitics