The company held a press conference at its US headquarters to announce plans to improve its research and development of vaccines – an area of medicine whose value to society is self-evident.
Read told journalists from the US and Europe that “what we do, we believe, is important to society,” but that there was a “perception gap” between the industry’s positive role in healthcare and its image as being motivated only by profit.
“It is vital to close that gap if this industry is to enjoy the support of society,” he argued.
The patent rights conferred on pharmaceutical companies depended on “a contract between the industry and society,” Read said, with a tacit assumption that the companies accept certain responsibilities.
“In the end, what we sell is confidence. We sell that we’ve done the research, done the clinical trials; that the data is done to a very high standard and is believed. The trust in society on quality is important to us. This trust is not where it ought to be.”
Other Pfizer executives discussed the worldwide social value of vaccines – itself challenged by a minority of the ‘religious right’ in the US – as a means of preventing serious diseases and so removing the need to treat them.