Pharmaceutical industry: profiting over human health

Over the past years, drug companies vowed to use the proceeds from pricey prescription drugs to develop new medicines to cure killer-diseases. But big pharma giants are not delivering, often choosing higher profits rather than respecting the vow – so that research and innovation aimed at developing medicine that would readily cure some of the world’s devastating illneses such as cancer could be reached.

Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, a doctor and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, highlighted this aspect in her book, The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. She noted  that the industry has become a marketing machine that produces few innovative drugs and is dependent on monopoly rights and public-sponsored research. She said the industry should be reformed.

According to the People’s Pharmacy, the pharmaceutical industry has historically been one of the most profitable sectors of the economy. Shareholders expect double-digit profits. That’s why the markup on prescription drugs is so high. A tablet that costs a few pennies to make is frequently sold for more than a dollar. With such profits, it would be reasonable to expect lots of breakthroughs from the pharmaceutical industry. Instead, companies have little to show for the billions they have invested in research and development.

Drug expenditures are now the fastest-growing component of health care costs, increasing at the rate of about 15 percent per year. As Angell noted, the pharmaceutical industry is extraordinarily privileged. It benefits enormously from publicly funded research, government-granted patents, and large tax breaks, and it reaps lavish profits.

“For these reasons, and because it makes products of vital importance to the public health, it should be accountable not only to its shareholders, but also to society at large,” Angell said.

Many drugs nowadays are just different versions of one another. Usually, it is the same basic component that is used. Many companies’ products may slightly improve, but are highly profitable duplicates, instead of working on creating something really new.

At the same time, many drugs are developed to fight against the symptoms, but not the actual  illness. And the scientific research in many cases is sponsored and guaranteed by the same pharma companies that are not willing to invest into less profitable although innovative projects.

“Drug Companies is a business and businesses of any kind have one ultimate goal and that is to make as much money as they can. Corporations have executive officers that report to board members and board members have to answer to stock holders who are only interested in making a profit from their investment,” Gary Kenneth Archer wrote in his article, Drug Companies Are Making Us Sick?

“The pressure is tremendous to make as large a profit as possible to make everyone happy and wealthy. There is no other reason to be in business if not to make money, a lot of money,” Archer wrote.

Of course it is impossible to underestimate the great contribution and value of doctors and different medical practitioners and specialists. But there should be a distinction between curing people and making money. When you are sick, you have no option but to consult a specialist, someone who you trust to know what to do and how to cope with the problem, and someone who is supposed to give you a qualified advice, not to sell you goods. 

It is also necessary to distinguish fighting with the villains in the pharmaceutical industry and those who cover them, and fighting with the need for the existence of pharmaceuticals. Otherwise, it would be like fighting against kitchen knives because they can potentially harm any person.

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