Dengvaxia and Sanofi’s R&D default

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“The overprice partially explains Sanofi Pasteur’s imperative to quickly mass market the vaccine despite its downsides.

The victimized public has had excessive doses of the Dengvaxia scandal ad nauseam particularly on the viral strain that involves colossal corruption and complicit political leadership.

Admittedly, in a country like the Philippines, politics is a potent catalyst. Politics is strong medicine. Unfortunately the focus of investigations and lawsuits have been on complicit trapos more than the drug company behind the controversial vaccine.

The Dengvaxia scam followed a default protocol involving politicians gearing up for an electoral campaign on one end, and on another, Sanofi Pasteur and the latter’s drive to quickly achieve an internal rate of return (IRR) on its research and development (R&D) investments.

In Dengvaxia both found common ground. For drug companies IRR north of 20 percent within five years are the requisite hurdles given high costs of capital and the higher cost of negative cash flows from excessively extended R&D.

Allow us to cite a paper that studies the financial imperatives faced by Sanofi arrayed against Dengvaxia and two other questionable products inside Sanofi’s medicine cabinet.

Last 29 September 2018 a workshop entitled “Defending Public Health against Corporate Greed” was conducted in Ghent, Belgium. A paper was presented by Dr. Frank Cantaloup, the author of a dissertation in 2016 on drug company vaccines entitled “Vaccins: Scandales sanitaires et conflits d’intérêts – Les vaccins doivent être des biens communs de l’humanité” (Vaccines must be common goods of humanity).

In the 2018 workshop, Cantaloup’s latest paper “Anatomie d’un scandale sanitaire” continued the same themes in 2016 but narrated similar scandals eventually focusing on the Philippine Dengvaxia scam. From the paper, a deadly pattern emerged involving corporate greed and “bad science.”

Alarmed by scenes of families and children treated as lab rats and guinea pigs and inspired by Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime, a 2015 book by Prof. Peter C. Gøtzsche, as both physician and Frenchman, the good doctor was especially concerned with Sanofi Pasteur.

Of note was how Sanofi’s financial stresses dictated Dengvaxia’s roll-out strategy. His paper discussed the following:
One was Sanofi’s R&D cost-squeeze. Since 2008 5,000 Sanofi R&D jobs had been eliminated in France. Forty percent of research programs were cut and 4,000 global research positions were lost. This forced Sanofi to focus only on high profit projects and “reallocate resources to external partnerships” — another term for outsourcing.

After losing a third of Sanofi’s workforce in Neuville-sur-Saone in Lyon, where Dengvaxia was manufactured, as much as 230 employees were in danger of also losing their jobs.

To achieve a 20 percent IRR, Sanofi turned to third parties and purchased drug and vaccine candidates still in the development pipeline. This included outsourcing R&D to public university laboratories to substantially cut R&D costs.

Under such tact, risks multiply and infect scientific processes, some resulting in bad science.
Note Sanofi’s history.

“In Dengvaxia both found common ground.

Sanofi peddles an anti-epilepsy drug under the names Depakine, Depakote or Micropakine.

Over 30 years ago the drug was proven dangerous to pregnant women as it resulted to neuro-developmental disorders and autism creating in their children. Yet it was continually prescribed en masse as was Dengvaxia eventually injected on Filipino school children wholesale. France’s drug safety authorities estimate from 16,600 to 30,400 were eventually afflicted.

Sanofi also manufactures Pristinamycin, a skin antibiotic. The book La Stratégie de la Bactérie, narrates how Sanofi, in seeking a larger market, repackaged it for lung infections.

Never mind that it was “not very effective” for that affliction.

As for Dengvaxia, it was initially an unnamed anti-dengue and West Nile virus developmental vaccine owned by Acambis Research Ltd. In 2008 Sanofi Pasteur purchased Acambis at a 65.2 percent premium.

The overprice partially explains Sanofi Pasteur’s imperative to quickly mass market the vaccine despite its downsides.

The rest is tragic history.

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