Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The polypill and the purple pill

More proof that what's good for health - and society as a whole - is bad for business, in today's Independent headline. Fie on you, Big Pharma.

The standard rationale for the patenting and high pricing of pharmaceuticals - i.e. that the poor, struggling multinationals need money to fund research - makes no mention of the fact that they spend about twice as much on marketing as they do on research, or that the very people proposing it earn six-figure (and up) salaries. In other words, given that producing the actual chemicals costs next to nothing, about two-thirds of every pill you take pays for advertising and promoting that pill to you, paying lobbyists, paying the media, paying politicians, paying doctors and clinics to prescribe that particular pill to you over another one.

Nor do they mention the fact that the money they do spend on "research" mostly goes to developing and marketing stuff like Prozac and Viagra, given that treatments for things like AIDS and Hepatitis just aren't profitable enough - precisely because the people who suffer from these illnesses can't afford the treatments that Big Pharma offers, at the prices at which they are offered.

And when no research is necessary, and the (unpatented) ingredients are cheaply available, and treatments can be cheaply produced at a profit? Nah, who needs that. Public health, improving the lot of humanity? Who cares. If we can't dig real deep in people's pockets and hold a knife to their throat, why bother?

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