Saturday , September 26 2020
Home / Tim Worstall /We’ve been waiting for this other shoe to drop

We’ve been waiting for this other shoe to drop

Summary:
Many of us working in NHS hospitals welcomed the news earlier this week that the government had purchased 90-minute Covid-19 tests. Rapid swab tests, called LamPORE, and 5,000 machines, supplied by DnaNudge, will soon be available in adult care settings and laboratories. If they’re effective, they could allow for rapid, on-the-spot testing. But there’s no publicly available data about the accuracy of these tests or how they perform, raising concerns about why the government has endorsed – and purchased - them.Think back a couple of months. Then the cry was that tests - any tests - should be used in vast numbers. Government just needs to get out there and buy them. Given this insistence before any particularly valid tests actually existed there was obviously going to be some spraying of

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Many of us working in NHS hospitals welcomed the news earlier this week that the government had purchased 90-minute Covid-19 tests. Rapid swab tests, called LamPORE, and 5,000 machines, supplied by DnaNudge, will soon be available in adult care settings and laboratories. If they’re effective, they could allow for rapid, on-the-spot testing. But there’s no publicly available data about the accuracy of these tests or how they perform, raising concerns about why the government has endorsed – and purchased - them.

Think back a couple of months. Then the cry was that tests - any tests - should be used in vast numbers. Government just needs to get out there and buy them. Given this insistence before any particularly valid tests actually existed there was obviously going to be some spraying of money at tests which don’t actually work.

No, we do not say that these specific tests do or don’t. Just that in any such system of payment for development there is going to be payment for developments that don’t pan out.

This also being a larger issue. For pledges are being made to purchase millions of doses of this vaccine, tens of millions of that. None of which have been proven to work as yet. The purchases being across the spectrum of those that might work - which means again there are going to be significant purchases of vaccines that don’t. Or less well than others, certainly government is going to end up buying what is not used. Which will call forth the same wailin’ an’ a cryin’ that these tests are.

However, look on the bright side. It will bring into the public conversation just how expensive drug development is - as opposed to the usual complaints about how high the profits are. For in that usual complaint about capitalist drug development the comparison is made between the amount one company has invested in a drug and the amount of money received from having done so. Which isn’t the correct comparison at all. Rather, it’s all the money that was invested in searching for a drug as against the revenues from the one that succeeded.

Now, with government paying all those costs of all developments we’re going to see this, vividly, how much it really does cost. And yes, large amounts of what is spent is indeed wasted. The thing being that in the old system it’s the capitalists who risk - and waste - their money, in this new world of government drug development it’s us taxpayers. There’s even the possibility that with the costs being made so evident that those who argue fort the nationalisation of drug development will end up having to wind their necks in.

We can hope at least. Drug development is an inherently wasteful and therefore expensive endeavour. It’s probably cheaper to leave it to the capitalists to do then only spend taxpayer's’ money on the winner.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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