Major developments and achievements in the healthcare industry in 2020 should not be overshadowed by the dark cloud of a pandemic.
“When we look back on the last twelve months, there is no doubt that they have been defined by Covid-19 and the impact it has had across the world.
“From increased pressures on health services to job losses and business closures, combined with major changes to the ways we work, socialize and interact, life as we know it has changed dramatically in a short space of time.
“For many, these adjustments have been seismic and could well mean a protracted return to normality or even permanent change in some cases. The negative connotations of the last year are undeniable but, in amongst the turmoil and commotion, there have been significant occurrences in the world of Pharma and Biotech. These must be recognized and celebrated for the positive changes they have created.
“At the fore of these has been the sheer record speed of bringing several safe, effective, and affordable vaccines through development, trials and approval stages and out to the wider public.
“The response has been unheard of, and while vaccines have previously taken as much as a decade to reach market, the likes of Pfizer/BioNtech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna have broken new ground with their medications already being administered, just 12 months since Covid-19 cases were first identified.
“Some may have expressed concern at this development and dismissed it as ‘rushed’ or ‘unsafe.’
“However, it is imperative to remember that the previously ‘normal’ timeframe for approval has been greatly improved by enhanced co-operation and communication between key players.
“In response to soaring infection and mortality rates, regulators and the pharma industry are working closer than ever before to reduce approval times.
“This has also been experienced with the scientific community itself and has seen researchers actively sharing their data regarding genomic sequencing and findings from clinical trials creating a much more holistic approach to combating the disease with an even more coordinated, cohesive response.
“Similar improved interactions also emerged between the public and private sectors with governments and companies coming together to provide essential financial backing for the vaccine development and ensure funding streams were uninterrupted.
“In America, this saw Operation Warp Speed partner with multiple institutions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, the European Commission funded several vaccine candidates and world leaders pledged $8bn for vital research, and the UK Government was instrumental in contributing to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The last twelve months have also been instrumental in helping create a greater public understanding and appreciation of the purpose and functions of the pharma industry and have been beneficial for its wider reputation.
“The speed and fluidity of the industry in its response to Covid-19 has been phenomenal, and while resources have been firmly focused on it, essential work continued, largely uninterrupted, in the development of medications and research for other legacy illnesses and diseases.
“So much so that a report published by OptumRX found the impact of the pandemic on ongoing work to be ‘minimal’ and a variety of new products were approved to help with chronic ailments such as anaemia, prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“This ability to pivot and adapt with ease to unforeseen circumstances has been key in building public trust in recent months.
“In closing, it is essential to recognize one further development of note during the last twelve months, the vaccines themselves.
“Regulators had hoped for an effectiveness rate of around 50 per cent. Of the three already available, the lowest efficacy stands at 90 per cent with both Moderna and Pfizer reporting rates of 95 per cent.
“This is a real triumph in the face of major adversity and a clear indicator of just how much has been achieved in 2020 and how it will impact favourably on the year ahead.”
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