By Lord Ara Darzi
The past few weeks have revealed the worst and the best in human responses to the coronavirus crisis – from the supermarket hoarders clearing the shelves to the neighborhood groups organizing help for elderly and vulnerable people.
When it comes to the pharmaceutical companies, how should we judge their response? They, after all, hold the key to ending the pandemic. Yet in one vital respect their behavior has more in common with the supermarket hoarders than the neighborhood groups.
Our exit strategy from the global lockdown depends on the development of an effective vaccine, as is well-known. A huge effort is under way to find such a vaccine, but we cannot afford to wait the 18 months it might take.
Coronavirus vaccine: when will it be ready?
In the meantime, as the death toll increases, doctors are desperate for treatments that would lessen the impact of the virus, by shortening the infection, reducing its severity and in that way saving lives. There is now a global hunt for a coronavirus drug. But it is a fight against time. The focus is therefore on existing treatments already proved to be safe for other diseases which will need less testing and be easier and quicker to manufacture in quantity.