In the months since the novel coronavirus rose from a regional crisis to a global threat, which killed nearly 10,000 people, drug makers, large and small have scrambled to advance their best ideas for thwarting this pandemic.

As COVID-19 spreads illness, death and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared for harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, but is also profiting generously.

Before anything else, it is important to understand the difference between drugs and vaccines. Drugs are generally administered to treat a medical problem, while vaccines are classically administered to prevent the appearance of a medical problem. Vaccines harmlessly show viruses or bacteria (or even small parts of them) to the immune system. The body’s defences recognise them as an invader and learn how to fight it. Then, if the body is ever exposed for real, it already knows how to fight the infection.

Now, at present, the question is whether a vaccine is to be developed or a drug?

Most vaccinologists believe that this vaccine will not be ready before a year. In the meantime, there is another potential problem. As soon as a vaccine is developed and approved, it’s going to be needed in vast quantities – and many of the organisations in the COVID-19 vaccine race simply don’t have the necessary production capacity.

The problem is making sure the vaccine gets to all those who need it. But in a pandemic, countries also have to compete with each other for medicines. During the 2009 H1N1 flu (Swine flu) pandemic, for example, vaccine supplies were snapped up by nations that could afford them, leaving poorer ones short. But you could also imagine a scenario where, India – a major supplier of vaccines to the developing world – not unreasonably decides to use its vaccine production to protect its own 1.3 billion-strong population first, before exporting it. Hence, at present scenario there is a dire need for drug development to combat with thwarting a pandemic by treatment.

Secondly, drugs which will have to be used for treatment against the coronavirus are all in the pipeline. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organisation stated last month, “There’s only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy, and that’s Remdesivir” by Gilead Sciences. The primary goals are reducing fever and helping patients get out of the hospital within two weeks. This can reduce the intensity and duration of COVID-19 and ease the burden of the pandemic on health systems.

However, the drug previously failed in a study on the Ebola virus. Dozens of pharmaceutical companies and research centres are vying to make it nonetheless.

All are in the race, as they share the view that the drug is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profit. The worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit. Several companies, are receiving funding from various international resources for their efforts related to the pandemic in developed countries, contrary to the companies and research centres in developing countries.

Hereafter, it is compulsory to collect all names of the industry at a platform to work collectively to defeat this pandemic from both developing and developed countries without any perspicacity to collaborate in an apt way only for the cause of humanity.

It is praiseworthy to mention here that, the World Health Organisation has played a dynamic role as WHO Director-General Tedros said, “WHO would launch a multi-arm, multi-country clinical trial for potential coronavirus therapies”, part of an aggressive effort to jumpstart the global search for drugs to treat COVID-19.

The study, which Tedros said he hopes other countries will join, has been named the solidarity trial. Countries that have already signed on are: Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.