DRUG COMPANIES CLAIM THEY NEED SOARING PROFITS IN ORDER TO DEVELOP LIFE SAVING DRUGS FOR THE FUTURE, BUT THEY ARE FUNDING THAT RESEARCH BY LETTING MILLIONS DIE TODAY.
We live in a profit driven world. This is never more evident than when you look at the pharmaceutical industry. It is the most profitable industry in the United States. 60% of all Medicare prescription drugs are pure profit for pharmaceutical companies. In just the United States alone, the drug companies spend 18 billion dollars a year on promotions and marketing. Over the past decade the cost of prescriptions in the U.S. has increased by 60%. During a recent 8 year stretch the pharmaceutical industry spent more than 850 million dollars on lobbying efforts, more than any other industry. Everything involving the pharmaceutical corporations concerns staggering amounts of money.
Of course all companies have to turn a profit to keep operating. You must generate sales while keeping costs as low as possible in order to survive, but there comes a point where that balance can become distorted to such a degree that enormous profits are actually being generated at the expense of those you are trying to help. The pharmaceutical industry is in a unique position because their products can literally save millions of lives. Therefore, lack of access to those same products can, in turn, result in millions of deaths. This places a huge responsibility on the entire sector since they have a tremendous influence over the health and well-being of the human race.
Sadly, the current track record regarding the altruism shown by gigantic corporations is abysmal. At this point in time greed rules the boardrooms, not compassion. Profit is chosen over people at all times and at every level. This is particularly true of drug companies. Annually the worldwide spending on prescription medications is 640 billion dollars, and that does not count all the over the counter products that generate profit for these companies. Of that 640 billion, the United States alone, accounts for almost half of all sales with 289 billion annually. Unfortunately, when that much money is at stake an industry will do almost anything to keep the gravy train going.
Of course any time huge sums of money are involved you can be sure that politicians are not far behind, and that is certainly true of the relationship between government officials and the pharmaceutical industry. The big drug companies donate millions of dollars to the campaigns of candidates who will support the legislation that keeps their monopolies alive. Such greed too often leads to corruption, and to the innocent being exploited. Public pressure and voting for candidates who are not in bed with the pharmaceuticals are the only ways to change the graft, fraud and malfeasance that can occur when large sums of money are changing hands.
The pharmaceutical industry has a huge presence in Washington, D.C. Over a recent six-year span they lobbied on 1,600 pieces of legislation in order to safeguard their stranglehold on the drug market thereby ensuring their continuing ability to produce profit at record levels. Obviously, we live in a capitalistic society where profits are necessary to stay in business; however, it is morally wrong to make extraordinary profits off of products that do little to help the human condition, such as wrinkle creams and treatments for baldness, while refusing to produce drugs that fight truly life threatening diseases in third world countries.
If companies have the research and development capabilities to produce life saving treatments, even though it may result in smaller profits, than they have an ethical responsibility to do so, and if they refuse to honor this responsibility than legislation needs to be passed to force them to do it. If a corporation will not to do the humane thing on their own than it is up to us to apply appropriate pressure to force them to behave in way that does not harm innocent people.
What good is a medication that can save your child’s life if it is unavailable or can’t be afforded? Treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS could save millions of lives each year, but they are out of reach for the poor. The pharmaceutical industry could lower their prices on small select groups of drugs that would save millions of lives and it would not appreciably affect their ability to fund research and development. They can still bleed Westerners dry if we want to shell out for lifestyle drugs to fight obesity, wrinkles and acne.
The gigantic pharmaceutical corporations have an obligation to deliver the medications that are needed in the developing countries of the world. Those areas have completely different needs than those that are prevalent in the West. Life saving medications should be available in bulk, at prices that aid organizations can afford. Making huge profits on non-essential items is one thing, but to constantly try to squeeze every penny of profit out of something that is necessary to sustain life is not right.
Each day people in extreme poverty die by the tens of thousands from curable illnesses and preventable diseases. The medications they so desperately need have been developed, but they can’t get them. That is inexcusable. If we are to live in a civilized world, people who need certain medications to stay alive should be provided with those drugs. There is no argument that can defend withholding life saving treatment from an innocent child who is dying a horrific death simply because she was bitten by a mosquito.
THERE HAS TO BE A RATIONAL BALANCE BETWEEN THE PRICING OF DRUGS FOR PURE PROFIT AND PRICING THEM AT A REASONABLE COST THAT WILL REACH THE MOST PEOPLE.