How Pharmaceutical Innovation Is Saving the World

Psychiatric TimesVol 38, Issue 2
Volume 02

Over the last 9 months, we have seen heroism, innovation, and precise science, performed under unbelievable pressure. The result is no short of miraculous.



In March 2020, the United States was in the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The country shut down, and the economy ground to a halt to slow the spread of the virus. Think back to March and the uncertainties it held for us all.

Nine months later, the US Food and Drug Administration approved 2 COVID-19 vaccines under emergency authorization. Before New Year’s Day, millions of Americans—including frontline physicians, health care providers, and our vulnerable populations in nursing homes—had received the vaccine.

Overall, the media has crafted a rather negative narrative about the COVID-19 pandemic. They described the US response to the pandemic as blundering from one mistake to the next.

Yet, a more accurate and underappreciated way to tell the story of the past 9 months revolves around heroism, innovation, and precise science, performed under unbelievable pressure.

Let’s not mince words: The United States and the world must appreciate the role of the pharmaceutical industry—the investigators, physicians, and business leaders—who are rescuing the world from COVID-19. It is the medical breakthrough of our lifetime. Consider these facts:

  • In this short time, scientists have identified a novel virus; unlocked and sequenced its genetic code; created new therapies to save lives; and developed multiple safe and effective vaccines using messenger RNA technology—a technology hopefully applicable to future vaccine development. Margaret Liu, MD, a biomedical scientist and member of the MJH Life Sciences™ COVID Coalition, called it a breakthrough for mRNA vaccines.
  • The United States has 2 vaccines approved for emergency use: 1 from Pfizer/BioNTech and another from Moderna. Additionally, the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is approved for emergency use in the UK. There are 64 additional vaccines currently undergoing clinical trials, including 20 in phase 3 trials. Worldwide, the pharmaceutical industry has answered the call and invested heavily in this effort to prevent morbidity and mortality.
  • This was the fastest vaccine development in history, and by a long shot. David Pride, MD, PhD, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Diego, estimates that vaccines typically take 10 to 15 years to develop. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the fastest development timeline was 4 years, which was for the mumps vaccine.
  • Many government systems moved to lessen the burden of onerous regulations and provided funding so vaccines could be developed quickly but with rigorous standards. Perhaps it should be a lesson that regulation and innovation can be calibrated more effectively during normal times as industry aims to develop new therapies for other diseases—cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even psychiatric disorders.

Distribution of the vaccine, the next step in the process, will be as challenging as the development phase, if not more so. Again, the pharmaceutical industry is rising to the occasion, as factories worldwide are on overdrive to produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.

Less than a month after the Pfizer vaccine was approved, more than 15.4 million doses of vaccine have been distributed throughout the country, and more than 4.6 million individuals have received their first dose, according to CDC data. Many patients are already receiving their second dose. All of this is incredible, considering 6 months ago many observers did not think a vaccine would be available until 2021.

Every day, more people will be vaccinated. After health care workers and our most vulnerable citizens, other frontline workers will be protected. Teachers will be vaccinated so our children can return to school. Soon, all Americans will be able to receive the vaccine at their doctor’s office or at a CVS or Walgreens.

Remember, we accomplished this in only 9 months—with the help, dedication, and expertise of our pharmaceutical industry heroes. Next time you turn on the TV and see negativity, turn it off and imagine instead where we will be in 9 months. ❒

Mike Hennessy Sr

Chairman and Founder,
MJH Life SciencesTM

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