By Ethan Huff
AÂ new reportÂ is urging government officials to begin stockpiling antibiotics in preparation for a potential global influenza pandemic, claiming that doing so will ultimately end up saving authorities tens of billions of dollars.
The first study yet to model the financial value of stockpiling antibiotics, the analysis claims that the world can save between $3 and $4 billion simply by preparing now for a worst-case scenario, rather than reacting to it once it arrives.
Somewhere between 50 and 100 million people are said to have died duringÂ the 1918 Spanish flu pandemicÂ â€“ not necessarily from the virus itself, but from secondary bacterial infections. Had antibiotics been around at that time, many lives could have been saved, experts claim.
â€œMost people donâ€™t realise that what kills people during a pandemic is not just an influenza virus, but a secondary bacterial infection,â€ says Ramanan Laxminarayan, the director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy in the United States, and senior author of the new study.
â€œIn many instances we donâ€™t have effective antibiotics, (and) this is a problem that keeps people awake at night.â€
Published in the journalÂ Health Economics, the paperâ€™s conclusion is based on a mathematical framework that estimates how much it would likely cost to treat people affected by an influenza pandemic after the fact, versus having antibiotics on hand in advance.
Based on this analysis, the suggestion is for governments to purchase both new and existing antibiotics now, as doing so will save them money in the long run as opposed to the much higher economic costs associated with handling a high death toll following the ravages of a pandemic.
â€œMake no mistake, itâ€™s inevitable that there will be another flu pandemic â€“ it may happen next year, or in the next 15 years, but it is inevitable and we cannot prevent it,â€ says Laxminarayan. â€œThere is huge value in stockpiling and withholding antibiotics so we are prepared.â€
Part of Laxminarayanâ€™s plan also involves encouraging governments to invest in more antibiotics research, particularly with regards to their long-term potential for treating a future flu pandemic. Doing this would encourage drug companies to develop new antibiotics for such purposes, greatly curtailing the fallout from a pandemic.
â€œIf a framework like this came into being, it would act as a mechanism to drive innovation from drugs companies,â€ he says. â€œAntibiotic resistance is a problem on a day to day basis, but it is really during a pandemic influenza that we will see the real scale of the problem. We must prepare.â€
AsÂ weâ€™ve previously reported, the constant tampering with nature that goes on in pharmaceutical laboratories where flu vaccines are made has many people concerned that the next flu pandemic wonâ€™t be random and unpredictable, but rather a direct consequence of such activity.
As earlier reported by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a researcher at theÂ University of Wisconsin â€“ Madison, genetic butchery in the form of flu virus manipulation â€œmay have pandemic potentialâ€ â€“ meaning these viruses researchers are playing with in an attempt to develop new vaccines is like playing with fire.
â€œThe work they are doing is absolutely crazy,â€ Lord May, the United Kingdomâ€™s former chief science advisor, is quoted as saying about all this genetic tampering. â€œThe whole thing is exceedingly dangerous. Yes, there is a danger, but itâ€™s not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, itâ€™s arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people.â€
A version of this story first appeared at NewsTarget.
Never miss a story! Sign up for our daily email newsletter â€”Â Click here!