Some chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents, whether naturally, accidentally, or intentionally released, can be very damaging and pose a high risk to national security, owing to their potential for economic and social disruption. Efficacious pharmaceutical research and development could protect populations against such agents via new prophylactic drugs and vaccines or post-exposure treatment with antidotes and antimicrobials. However, because of the unpredictable nature of when, if ever, the health risks of specific CBRN agents might be realized, the development of medical countermeasures against these agents carries less promise of free market rewards to entice investment, and thus this development necessitates public funding or incentives. In terms of defining the level and targets of such public funding, the potential economic impact of any realized threat must be determined.
These articles raise public and private awareness and examine the specific components of market failure — research and development efforts vs. market rewards associated with medical countermeasures against rare, but deadly diseases (e.g. CBRN agents).