In these unprecedented times, it can be hard to feel optimistic, but there are reasons to stay positive.
The Food and Drug Administration has expedited approval of diagnostic tests. Hospitals and health care providers across the country are selflessly treating a growing number of COVID-19 patients. Policymakers continue to examine ways to help those affected from the virus’s economic fallout. Community and religious leaders are providing much-needed support to families and the vulnerable in new ways. And the biopharmaceutical industry is working around the clock to develop solutions to help diagnose and treat those with COVID-19.
Today, in the midst of this global pandemic, our industry is doing what we are uniquely positioned to do: testing new and existing treatments to determine what might work against COVID-19 and developing new vaccines to prevent it.
The decades-long investments biopharmaceutical companies have made in new technologies, research and treatments have prepared the industry to act swiftly to respond to the public health crisis.
The industry has gained substantial scientific knowledge and has created important infrastructure and capabilities from decades of experience with other viruses. For over three decades, we have collaboratively contributed to the understanding, treatment and transformation of HIV care. More recently, biopharmaceutical companies have tackled MERS, SARS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Now, companies are committing billions to test existing medicines that can potentially treat infected patients and identify possible vaccine candidates that could prevent the disease. There are 284 clinical trials for potential treatments and vaccines underway around the United States and the world right now.
As we await a COVID-19 vaccine, companies are exploring ways to rapidly upscale manufacturing and broaden distribution once potential vaccines or treatments are identified. In some cases, companies have already started ramping up their production capacity, so they are prepared to help immediately upon approval.
All of these efforts involve close collaboration with U.S. and global health authorities, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization and other global public health authorities. Partners are engaging with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, also known as BARDA, to accelerate further the development of new vaccines and testing of existing treatments.
And we are sharing the learnings from clinical trials in real time with governments and other companies to advance new therapies.
While we are confident our industry can and will rise to this challenge, companies will have to explore potential treatments and vaccines without knowing whether any of them will work for patients. The immune system is complex, and we can’t always predict how it, or the virus, will respond to a vaccine or treatment. Not all the vaccines and treatments being tested will work, which is why we need as many shots on goal with as many viable candidates as possible.
Our industry will continue to work with health care partners across the world to do everything we can to beat this virus as quickly and as safely as possible. We will also make sure these potential treatments and vaccines are affordable and accessible to patients.
We commit to doing this while supporting our patients and communities. Companies are enhancing their patient support programs, to ensure they are equipped to help our patients access critical medicines in this time of need. And we will continue to provide support to communities across the United States and the world.
We are inspired as we see our nation and the world coming together to fight this pandemic. Please stay safe and know we are committed to do everything we can to beat this virus as quickly and safely as possible.
View a new video on how the industry is doing its part to fight COVID-19 here.
Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO, PhRMA
Giovanni Caforio, M.D., chairman and CEO, Bristol Myers Squibb