Thursday, August 6, 2009

Feathering Nests and Breaking Promises

Photo: World Aids Week, 2008 in Shibale, Western Kenya. Because of the artificially high prices or antiretroviral drugs, the promise will not be kept for most people.

The Information Clearing House has a good article about pharmaceutical companies and how they maximise their profits at the expense of tax payers and the poor and sick. These companies are fond of pointing out that they need to charge lots of money so they can keep on researching and producing more drugs. The fact is that most of the research is done in publicly funded institutions and the pharmaceutical companies only put 14% of their ill gotten gains into research. They put far more into lobbying, marketing and various other legal but dirty tricks.

It is possible for developing countries to get a licence to produce patented drugs but they are being encouraged not to do so because this would be inconvenient for the drug companies. They could even produce the drugs or import drugs produced, while ignoring the patent, because it is in the interest of human rights. But again, they are encouraged not to do so and there are some cosy agreements in some countries not to do anything that would threaten Big Pharma's profits.

Much of the money spent on drugs in developing countries comes from aid money so developing country governments don't really care whether the money is being spent on small amounts of patented drugs or large amounts of generic drugs. It's a terrible waste of money and many people are denied treatment that should be perfectly affordable, but there are too many vested interests involved for the system to change much. What is required is for developing countries to stand up to Big Pharma and to produce or import generic versions of the drugs they need. Brazil is one of the few countries that has been in a position to do this.

Unfortunately, the drug industry is wealthy enough to ensure that most countries don't follow Brazil's example. Some countries, such as Kenya, have even passed ambiguous legislation that doesn't distinguish between generics and fakes, so that the production or importation of generics is unlikely to be possible there. It is feared that other countries will follow their example. This is very convenient for the drug companies. I wonder what prompted Kenya to do something that seems to be so much against their interest? Sphere: Related Content

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