HHS Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2007–2012 (Strategic Plan). Business Interests

11/22/2015

Within the research and development sector, business decisions, such as technical capabilities, competing opportunities, interest in the field to develop basic findings into next steps or the next generation of science, economic motivations, public health motivations, and other considerations, significantly influence research and development progress. For example, during the last half-century, pharmaceutical companies have been gradually abandoning the development and manufacture of vaccines. Today, fewer companies are making vaccines because of a number of factors, including the expense involved in bringing vaccines to market and the small size of the vaccine market compared to the larger drug market. There does not appear to be a single reason to explain the decline in the number of vaccine manufacturers. High-risk research that is critical to biomedical advances must often be initiated by public agencies; because of the high risk of failures, private for-profit groups may be less likely to pursue this type of research.

A larger trend in pharmaceutical company mergers and acquisitions, which has seen vaccine-only companies acquired by larger manufacturers, has also contributed to the decreases in the total number of companies making vaccines. In the 1990s, these mergers and acquisitions were largely driven by the need to cut costs. Companies are merging and acquiring other companies in order to secure enough capital and expertise to take advantage of these innovations and, at the same time, cut costs and create efficiencies. The concern remains, however, that leaving the manufacture of all vaccines in the hands of so few producers leaves the supply vulnerable to disruptions and shortages as has been observed in recent years regardless of the total capacity to produce vaccines. HHS is working with manufacturers to identify incentives to promote market reentry and capacity expansion.

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