Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Decent Start

An interesting new plan has been developed that would increase the likelihood of creation of vaccines for diseases that largely affect countries in the developing world. While this is a step in the right direction, it misses some of the large issues that surround the pharmaceutical companies. These companies constantly bemoan the difficulties that they face in creating medicine, while at the same time recording higher profit margins than most other sectors. Confounding this situation is the fact that pharmaceutical companies receive significant subsidization from the U.S. government, both directly and indirectly. Directly through government grants for research and indirectly through funding of public universities that cooperate with pharmaceutical companies to create new products. If the company is genuinely concerned with financial solvency, perhaps it is time to reduce CEO pay and put some of those millions into developing new drugs.

Also important to recognize is why developing countries are unable to represent a suitable market to pharmaceutical companies. Many of the billions of people that would benefit from drugs for preventable diseases live on less than $1 a day, and nearly all that would benefit live on less than $2 a day. When basic sustenance is difficult to achieve, it is hardly likely that there will be sufficient out-of-pocket funds for vaccinations.

Also significant is that measures such as this fail to get at some of the core issues that create the problem in the first place. Issues such as for-profit medicine, which bring about the terrifying 10:90 divide: where 90% of investment in pharmaceuticals is directed toward diseases that affect only 10% of people in the world. Of course, this 10% are the wealthiest. This frightening discrepancy between those who need and those who have only shows further the moral bankruptcy under which we exist. This is an industry where the majority of products released are knock-off drugs that are about to lose their patent or drugs that closely emulate products put out by their competitors. A more democratic form of research and development of pharmaceuticals would be extremely beneficial worldwide. It seems the only people that are benefitting from the increasing concentration of pharmaceutical companies are those companies themselves. When large parts of the research are carried out in public universities, it makes it difficult to identify what role these pharmaceutical companies are really playing in facilitating a more healthy world.

*If anyone is unable to access the article linked above, let me know and I can provide a copy over email.

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