April 26, 2011

Pharmaceutical Companies: Health or Wealth

Pharmaceutical Companies:  We have wealth issues to solve, take your health issues with you.
(repost from my previous blog)

The pharmaceutical industry develops, produces, and markets drugs licensed for use as medications.  Pharmaceutical companies can deal in generic and/or brand medications. They are subject to a variety of laws and regulations regarding the patenting, testing and marketing of drugs (Wikipedia, 2010).

 From this definition alone, these companies should have the heart to help people who are in need of medication, they should deliver medicines that will promote the best interest of the majority, and that best interest I would argue should be health.

Of course, this industry is very much profit oriented and a capitalist from every angle I look at, and that can't be helped. Money still makes the corporate world go round after all, but to hamper and drag down others movements that can help more people grab health opportunities is just sick and twisted. Running a business at the expense of other peoples lives deteriorates humanity. 

"There is a direct conflict between the pursuit of health and the pursuit of wealth"
 -J.W. Smith, The Worlds Wasted Wealth 2, (Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994), p. 82.

The Pursuit of Wealth

1.Its not the world's property, you know? (Patents)

"Intellectual property differs from other property, restricting its use is inefficient as it costs nothing for another person to use it. Using knowledge to help someone does not prevent that knowledge from helping others. Intellectual property rights, however, enable one person or company to have exclusive control of the use of a particular piece of knowledge, thereby creating monopoly power. Monopolies distort the economy. Restricting the use of medical knowledge not only affects economic efficiency, but also life itself. We tolerate such restrictions in the belief that they might
spur innovation, balancing costs against benefits. But the costs of restrictions can outweigh the benefits.

The establishment of the World Trade Organization imposed US style intellectual property rights around the world. These rights were intended to reduce access to generic medicines and they succeeded. "
-Joseph Stiglitz, Scrooge and intellectual property rights, British Medical Journal, December 23, 2006, Volume 333, pp. 1279-1280

2.What about your diseases? (Selective making of medicine)

"Multinational pharmaceutical companies neglect the diseases of the tropics, not because the science is impossible but because there is, in the cold economics of the drug companies, no market. There is, of course, a market in the sense that there is a need: millions of people die from preventable or curable diseases every week. But there is no market in the sense that, unlike Viagra, medicines for leishmaniasis are needed by poor people in poor countries. Pharmaceutical companies judge that they would not get sufficient return on research investment, so why, they ask, should we bother? Their obligation to shareholders, they say, demands that they put the effort into trying to find cures for the diseases of affluence and longevityheart disease, cancer, Alzheimers. Of the thousands of new compounds drug companies have brought to the market in recent years, fewer than 1% are for tropical diseases.

In the corporate headquarters of major drug companies, the public relations posters display the image they like to present: of caring companies that bring benefit to humanity, relieving the suffering of the sick. What they dont say, is that, so far, their humanity has not extended beyond the limits of the pockets of the sick. "
-Isabel Hilton, A Bitter Pill For The Worlds Poor, the Guardian, January 5, 2000

3.You dont need it, buy it anyway (Deceiving advertisements)

"It seemed that the more people are exposed to contemporary health care, the sicker they feel. Because that's how advertisements show it, more money can be made from selling healthcare interventions for the healthy majority than for the sick minority, thereby getting people to purchase their preventative health rather than encouraging people to be healthy in the first place."


4.sell products in developing countries that are withdrawn in the West;
5.charge more for products in developing countries than they do in the West;
6.fail to give instructions on packets in local languages;
7.resist measures that would help governments of developing countries to promote generic drugs at low cost
8.use their influence to try to prevent national drug policies;
9.use their home government to support their operation with threats if necessary, such as withdrawing aid, if a host government does anything to threaten their interests.
10.Testing on humans without permission

-Hilton, I. (2000). A Bitter Pill for the Worlds Poor. The Guardian
-Pharmaceutical industry. (September 20, 2010). Wikipedia online. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmaceutical_industry
-Smith, J.W. (1994). The Worlds Wasted Wealth 2. Institute for Economic Democracy. p. 82.
-Stiglitz, J. (2006). Scrooge and intellectual property rights. British Medical Journal, Volume 333, pp. 1279-1280

For more information, visit this site:

If you think the topic is interesting, try watching the HBO movie The Constant Gardener (2005)

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