Site Administrator Of:

Supporter Of:

Archives

Big Pharma doesnt want to help save lives if no profit is involved.

I wholeheartedly agree with Kevin over at his blog in his description of the Pharmaceutical Industry not wanting to develop this new cancer drug that apparently has done wonders in the lab if it doesnt make them a profit. I mean, what’s the point of developing something inexpensive that could help save lives if you can’t make a buck off of it?

Apparently, being corporate good citizens once in awhile and being altruistic in an industry that makes billions of dollars per year over 1 drug that may or may not help reduce the death rate of one of the deadliest diseases to humankind is asking too much.
Pathetic.

Share

20 comments to Big Pharma doesnt want to help save lives if no profit is involved.

  • LrC: Why? … The problem here seems to be that the shareholders and employees of pharmaceutical companies don’t want to take a dividend or pay cut. How selfish of them.

    You’ve answered your own question here. Much of my argument is based on the opinion that this is selfishness beyond reason. And I’ve offered examples of how other professions like doctors and lawyers are able to take a pay cut – they regularly do work for free – and still end up well-off. I understand that you disagree but I hope you see my point of view.

    Vijay: I can’t comment on the specifics of what the doctor did or did not do prior to appearing on CTV. I’m also sure that there are a lot of good people that work in the pharma industry, and, like other industries, it is a difficult business in which to make a profit. But if you can take a step back here is some of the context I hope you’ll consider:

    * We’ve all read the news about Enron, Conrad Black etc and know that many executives at the top of big business are corrupt and contempuous of the average person.

    * I’ve read that top executives at US companies now earn as much as the total profits generated by companies on US stock exchanges. E.g. the profitability of those companies would double if executive compensation was removed. Sorry, I don’t have a reference for this off-hand. But there are stories almost daily of executives receiving golden parachutes of tens of millions of dollars or more. Scott provides other examples of ancillary things that are having a negative impact on the bottom line.

    * I’m sure we’ve all heard of companies that spend more on advertising and promotion about their charitable contributions (e.g. green-washing) than they spend on the actual green actions they are taking.

    * Anyone who’s read about the problems in the US health care system knows that big pharma and big insurance companies cause a large part of the bloated costs, inefficiences and injustices in that system.

    * The handling by big pharma of AIDS drugs in Africa. Enough said.

    * I’ve heard of the high cost to develop drugs but the figure of $500 million to further develop DCA seems overstated considering the drug is already being safely used on humans.

    Considering the above, it is easy for me to believe a report that big pharma won’t develop a given drug like the cancer drug solely because it won’t make any money on it. Note that I’m not even making the argument that a single company should spend $500 million to develop this drug. But it seems to me that there is little support or desire within the industry to develop and distribute useful drugs on a “break-even” basis.

    You’ve given some helpful examples about how pharma contributes but I don’t think the negative perception I and others have about pharma is entirely rooted in mythology. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of pharma execs think the same way that LrC does. But since you’re involved, Vijay, maybe you can pass along the comments Scott and I are making so executives in your company better understand why people get upset.

  • lrC

    >A third party wouldn’t have the infrastructure set up to do the research, get the approvals, do the distribution, etc like the pharma companies do. Basically, someone will have to do this work out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Why? Do progressives continue to stand behind grants of hundreds of millions of dollars to Bombardier and to automotive companies because they won’t build trains, planes, and automobiles out of the goodness of their hearts, or give their engineers and assemblers a paycheque haircut in order to develop their next product? If there were ever a justifiable case for a public subsidy, this is it. Or government could agree to grant whichever company brings it to market in an approved consumable form a limited monopoly. Suppose this had been revealed as a tested, approved, patented drug which was to be offered at premium dollar. Would you demand the price be cut?

    However we might feel about the roles of free markets and governments, we should be able to agree that a free market is not claimed to provide more than a general optimization of utility; it can’t be expected to provide a specified utility. The problem here seems to be that the shareholders and employees of pharmaceutical companies don’t want to take a dividend or pay cut. How selfish of them.

  • Its nothing to do with sympathy towards his misfortunes, Vijay. Its everything to do with taking to task Big Pharma who can’t stand the thought of having a potential new treatment out there that might either only make minuscule profit or at worse, cause their bottom line profit figures to go down from several billion to a couple billion. :em52: Pardon me if I don’t have sympathy for them when they are failing the public in trying to fight one of the deadliest diseases out there because it isnt enough of a cash cow for them to develop this or other medicines (Did you see the CTV report? Other potentially good drugs have also gone by the wayside because of this cartel deciding there was no profit to it.. as if trying to develop drugs to help save lives is a secondary matter to the bottom line).

    Revolting.

  • All I will say is visit a pharma company and see how it works.

    Let me make this easy. Ask the prof to show you proof of paper publications? ask him, which companies he reached out too, ask him if he is willing to transfer his work to a pharma company to see if there is potential to make a drug, if he say Yes to it, then come back to me. You are doing exactly what he wanted, sympathy for his misfortunes.

  • Ah, an advocate for the pharmaceutical companies Vijay.. that would explain your callous attitude towards this (you still havent owned up for the “its their fault if they get cancer” statement you left up there… one of the more appalling things I’ve read). You’re advocating from the corporate/big business side of the Liberal Party I see.

    I already retracted “moral duty” and said as Kevin mentioned that “common good” and “public interest” were better terms.

    Also, forgive me if I don’t shed a tear towards the drug companies supposed contribution to society, Vijay. A lot of the drug companies budget – particularly the US-based ones – are based less on R @ D and more on lobbying doctors to use or recommend their particular product to patients or else lobbying the US Congress to prevent it from doing any meaningful healthcare reform or pharmaceutical price controls which allows them to bilk and milk consumers ..which leads the US Congress to then try and pass legislation to allow mass re-importation of drugs from Canada and elsewhere.. which then leads our “so-called” donors to the community drug companies to rather then increase supply (which they could) to threaten to cut off ours.

    So no.. I dont have sympathy for “Big Pharma”… and I think its disgraceful as well they may be stopping an important advance in fighting a deadly disease merely because they might not make as much money off of it as they’d like.

  • “>its the pharma companies moral duty to society”.

    The moral duty will cost around 300-500 million from this stage. Who is going to pay for that?

    Who said Pharma companies will not develop an inexpensive drug. Many life saving drugs today cost less than dollar, because pharma companies invested billions into research. Many of the first line cardiovascular, diabetic and other drugs cost pennies and that did not stop pharma companies to work adn develop them.

    Do you know how many pharma companies are running in loss. Pfizer had to lay off 25% of staff, Bayer, Merck and many other companies are in the verge of closure. Many companies are running under loss, something most people dont realize. People think pharma companies are loaded with money. I wish it was like that. I cant think of one pharma company that is not having problems.

    Let me ask you this? if the drug is showing hope, why does the professor not give it a pharma company to develop it further? Have you asked that question? There is nothing, that can not be patented. As someone who knows patents and drug delivery systems very well, I can tell you that you can take even exisiting patented molecues, tweak it and get new patents. so there is nothing called ‘not patentable’.

    There are many other factors. R&D is not ia kids stuff, take some thing from a lab and develop. Companies are working on molecules that they think might be launched in 2010-2014. Capital and medical resources are allocated according to that. So do you mean to say that I have to hire another 100 people to work on this create a new facility for 80-200 million or stop all the exisiting work that scientists have been working for many years so that we can work on a molecule that we dont even own.

    There are other legal challenges to it too. I recomend that people should take a one day tour of a big pharma company and then you will realize what goes in there. Pharma is one of the largest donors to the community. We donate hundreds of millions of dollars to Canadians who cannot afford brand drugs. Talk to top physicians, they will tell you the contributions of pharma companies.

    I am curious to know which companies he apprached, more curious to see the results that make him think that this prodcut has potential. Any publications, any validations, nothing. just blank accusations.

  • No problem Kevin.. you had used the [] rather then the <>. I fixed it for you.

  • Hmm, I seem to have royally messed up the formatting in my responses. Sorry for the problem …

  • Vijay Sappani: Both of you are wrong. You have to remember that if a product can save lives, then there is a lot of profit in it and big pharma will like it. There is a lot more to R&D than playing blame games.

    This is not necessary true. That is one of the main points of the CTV article, and it is also the point I picked up on.

    Vijay Sappani: The prodcut DCA has many challenges and there are other reasons that I can explain later when I find some time … if this professor failed, dont blame the pharma companies. We have better things to do than answer to the million requests for fundings from professors that we get everyday.

    It could be that the professor is wrong, but certainly the CTV article makes it seem like the opposite is true. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the media doesn’t always get it right. But the larger question and problem I have with this issue is that the pharmaceutical industry has so completely bought into the market-driven mindset that the *only* thing that seems to be driving the possible development of this drug is whether or not it will make money. Why couldn’t the industry set aside a pool of money to follow up on non-patentable drug research? Even if only 1 in 10 drugs panned out I’m sure it would be of great benefit.

    Scott Tribe: If this drug is showing great results in the lab… its the pharma companies moral duty to society in my opinion to develop it.

    Joseph Krengel: You lost me here. That’s the same sort of thinking which leads to pharmacies refusing to sell condoms or hotels to ban gay and lesbian groups from their conference rooms.

    I think that Scott was right to back away from the “moral” argument in favour of “common good” and “public interest.” Even so, I don’t Joseph’s analogies follow. There are many examples of how a company can be a good corporate citizen without stepping into moral quagmires. In reality, this is done all the time. For example, when law firms decide to do pro bono work they are arguably making value judgments when they choose which cause to support. The US deputy assistant of defense notwithstanding, no one criticizes them for this, although they could if they apply the same black and white logic that you are using. To be more specific, I can’t see how or why pharma companies would ever get criticized if they had a fund set aside to follow up on the research for unpatentable drugs that may not be profitable.

    Joseph Krengel: The truth of the matter is that however morally repugnant we may personally find pharmaceutical company behaviour, the capitalist system should and does remain an amoral one

    One of the broader points I was trying to make with my post is that the very fact that this drug might not get developed, regardless of its usefulness, demonstrates that this argument has a flaw. As a result I think there is a growing belief amongst many Canadians that the capitalist system as it currently exists needs to be modified in a way that (for example) would allow for some of the millions going to corporate executives to be redirected to the public good.

    Joseph Krengel: it is up to government or the market to provide corrections.

    It seems like you want to have things both ways: on the one hand, government should fix problems, but on the other hand, Conservatives want smaller government and less regulation. I think a little more cooperation on the part of big business would make things easier for everyone.

    LrC: 5) So what is preventing anyone else from testing the commercially available chemical, getting it through food and drug hurdles, and packaging it to sell in Shopper’s and London Drugs rather than just retail chemical suppliers?

    Because it would be even more difficult for those people to make any money either. A third party wouldn’t have the infrastructure set up to do the research, get the approvals, do the distribution, etc like the pharma companies do. Basically, someone will have to do this work out of the goodness of their hearts. In my opinion, I think there is room for the pharma companies to be better corporate citizens and take the lead. You might disagree, but I think everyone would be better off if this was the case.

  • lrC

    Having read Kevin’s rant against Conservative profit motives and attitudes towards global warming which was disguished as a comment about a potential anti-cancer agent, and then followed the link to the original article, I have noted some things:
    1) The chemical (DCA) is commercially available.
    2) The reason it is useful (mitochondrial repair) is already known.
    3) Pharmacological companies aren’t interested because it can’t be patented.
    4) But pharmacological companies don’t have a commercial or moral monopoly on medical research.
    5) So what is preventing anyone else from testing the commercially available chemical, getting it through food and drug hurdles, and packaging it to sell in Shopper’s and London Drugs rather than just retail chemical suppliers?

  • [quote comment=”830″]That’s a nice motherhood statement, but I was hoping to see an actual argument of moral duty. They already provided goods for the money they’ve taken over the years. There’s no such thing as future goodwill debt for past profits.[/quote]

    moral may have been a bad phrase to use in describing what I felt… but common good and the public interest certainly would apply for me on this topic.

    You’re going to argue to me that if this drug is the one that ultimately saves millions of lives if developed, but it fails to get marketed because of no profit involved, thats somehow not in the common good or public interest?

    The fact this drug would be “inexpensive’ apparently is the bad word here for the drug companies. Why market it if we can’t get rich off of people unfortunate enough to get ill with this disease?

    It might not be the wonder drug….. but again, it might. If it’s so inexpensive as claimed, I’m sure the drug companies can scrape out a bit of chump change to see if it is or not. It’s the least they can do in my opinion.

  • lrC

    >Its called being good corporate citizens Lrc. They can give a little bit back to society for all the money they’ve taken from society over the years.

    That’s a nice motherhood statement, but I was hoping to see an actual argument of moral duty. They already provided goods for the money they’ve taken over the years. There’s no such thing as future goodwill debt for past profits.

  • [quote comment=”826″]

    [quote]You lost me here. That’s the same sort of thinking which leads to pharmacies refusing to sell condoms or hotels to ban gay and lesbian groups from their conference rooms. The truth of the matter is that however morally repugnant we may personally find pharmaceutical company behaviour, the capitalist system should and does remain an amoral one; it is up to government or the market to provide corrections.[/quote]

    See “companies should be good corporate citizens” above Joseph. Also see Kevin’s point: When a conservative talking point such as “let the market decide” is applied to social constructs such as public health care, things start going wrong. Again, this story illustrates that in spades.

  • If this drug is showing great results in the lab… its the pharma companies moral duty to society in my opinion to develop it.

    You lost me here. That’s the same sort of thinking which leads to pharmacies refusing to sell condoms or hotels to ban gay and lesbian groups from their conference rooms. The truth of the matter is that however morally repugnant we may personally find pharmaceutical company behaviour, the capitalist system should and does remain an amoral one; it is up to government or the market to provide corrections.

  • [quote comment=”822″]>its the pharma companies moral duty to society

    How do you figure? Providing goods to others for purely altruistic reasons doesn’t even come close to being a moral obligation unless it can be done at little to no cost or risk to oneself.[/quote]

    Its called being good corporate citizens Lrc. They can give a little bit back to society for all the money they’ve taken from society over the years. As Kevin said, “large corporations need to start paying more than lip service to the progressive concept of giving back to their communities.”…the public good is (not)served when an inexpensive cancer drug is left undeveloped while individuals in the community watch their friends and their family dying of cancer.

  • lrC

    >its the pharma companies moral duty to society

    How do you figure? Providing goods to others for purely altruistic reasons doesn’t even come close to being a moral obligation unless it can be done at little to no cost or risk to oneself.

  • With all due respect Vijay.. thats bullcrap.

    Not every case of cancer is due to people smoking… its due to genetics or external environmental hazards.. you’re blaming those people for getting cancer?

    If this drug is showing great results in the lab… its the pharma companies moral duty to society in my opinion to develop it. 1 drug that doesnt make them a lot of money is overshadowed by the billions of dollars other drugs make them.

    Seriously Vijay.. you appalled me with your statement.

  • Both of you are wrong. You have to remember that if a product can save lives, then there is a lot of profit in it and big pharma will like it. There is a lot more to R&D than playing blame games.

    The prodcut DCA has many challenges and there are other reasons that I can explain later when I find some time.

    The gist is, if you screw up your finances, dont blame the bank, if you crash your car, dont blame the insurance company, if you smoked cig and got cancer dont blame the tobacco companies, and if this professor failed, dont blame the pharma companies. We have better things to do than answer to the million requests for fundings from professors that we get everyday.

  • […] Medical ethics have been a topic of much discussion in the last few days, and I’ve been debating whether or not to wade into the debate publicly (I have already discussed this privately with a fellow blogger, and that conversation will remain private.) I was inclined to stay out of the debate until I saw this story. The approach is called “ethical pharmaceuticals,” and it was unveiled on January 2 by Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College, and Steve Brocchini of the London School of Pharmacy, the Guardian reports. Their team of scientists in India and the UK, financed by the prestigious Wellcome with technical assistance from the UK government, have developed a method of making small but significant changes to the molecular structure of existing drugs, thereby transforming them into new products, circumventing the long-term patents used by the corporate giants of Big Pharma to keep prices – and profits – high. This will give the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people access to life-saving medicines – now priced out of reach – for mere pennies. […]

unique visitors since the change to this site domain on Nov 12, 2008.