Infectious diseases are good business for drug companies

Look no further than Bristol-Myers Squibb’s third-quarter earnings results for the reasons why it and its rivals are keen on infectious diseases, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

At a time when cash-strapped U.S. patients are deserting their prescriptions due to sticker shock, and debt-laden European governments are trying to control price increases, antiviral agents are giving pharmaceutical executives hope of serious revenue increases.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson signaled an intention to expand in infectious diseases. Gilead, a company built on HIV agents, reported higher sales for its key therapies.

Bristol’s profit fell slightly in the quarter and total sales were flat, but sales of virology drugs like HIV fighter Reyataz and Hepatitis B therapy Baraclude grew eight percent worldwide.

What’s more, Bristol CEO Lamberto Andreotti singled out therapies in the company’s pipeline that target Hepatitis C.

There a couple of reasons why Andreotti and his peers view infectious diseases as a solid business prospect: the numbers of people infected by viruses like HIV don’t fluctuate with the economy, and there’s no questioning their need for effective treatments. Governments and health insurers are inclined to cover the cost.

It’s why we’re likely to hear more about how many companies like Bristol are counting on Hepatitis C, for instance, to replace sales lost when antipsychotics and drugs that lower blood pressure shortly go off patent.

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