Want to predict a pandemic? Have more doctors prescribe the same drug

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A U.S. doctor, has written a telling story of how easy it was for Big Pharma to bet the farm on pandemic flu vaccine.

The doctor, Micah Schaffer of the Center for Human Genome Research at the University of Toronto, was checking out CVS Pharmacy, which recently began a promotional campaign to expand the number of health care providers who have access to its private billing data, to physicians who have supplied their customers with their record. But Schaffer also decided to use his database to make a very strategic play in pharma research.

He made the list of doctors so large that the company was going to pay him $20 million. But with the prospect of huge returns came risks: CVS had to keep the number of compliant patients below 20 percent. And there was a reason the company worried about that. In a pandemic, the company could be on the hook for billions of dollars in payouts to state and federal governments as well as — most improbably — individuals who needed the vaccine, at least to attempt to bring the infection under control.

Schaffer, who focuses his practice on drugs that respond to changes in gene expression, figured that the company would have a hard time meeting its obligation. When he handed over his contract, he deliberately made sure to include the following explanation: “This contract does not obligate CVS Health to buy or offer to buy any product containing the technology described herein.”

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.

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