Due to its lobbying efforts against drug importation reform to lower medication costs and funding of groups that mislead Americans about online pharmacies, scaring them away from safe and affordable medication sold outside the U.S., we often criticize Big Pharma on this blog. Speaking somewhat personally, I question myself sometimes whether they are deserving of such constant criticism. And then I read Daniel Hoffman from Philly.com in “Drug Prices: Higher and Higher” – and I’m reminded that they are!
Big Pharma is a on global government relations blitzkrieg to pressure countries into raising drug prices, spouting nonsense that the higher drug prices are supported by lower health care costs overall. Dr. Hoffman writes about pharma’s efforts in Germany to end a practice that enables doctors and other healthcare professionals to determine if new medications are truly an advance over old ones and merit higher drug prices. If they don’t then the government insurance plans will not reimburse for those products at a higher rate than older, proven medications. Seems fair!
Dr. Hoffman writes that India, with an incredibly dynamic pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, fights back against what that country views as overly aggressive intellectual property claims by Western drug companies. Sometimes India even views those patents as a threat to public health, and when it does it issues a “compulsory license” – the right to manufacture a generic even though there’s a patent in place.
I contend that this tactic can be abused by governments pressured by their own pharmaceutical industries – such as India. However, sometimes they are needed to save lives. What made me sick was a comment made by the CEO of Bayer, Marijib Dekkers, about India’s issuing a compulsory license for the drug Nexavar, which treats late stage kidney cancer. I’d prefer to quote a long section from Hoffman’s piece:
A spokesperson for Doctors Without Borders later claimed that Dekkers represents ” ‘everything that is wrong’ with the multinational pharmaceutical industry.” (See here.)
That may be one way of looking at it. The other is that Dekkers is just more candid in admitting that pharma is all about making money and if millions of people have to die as a result, that’s just the way it is.
So are we being too hard on Big Pharma? The answer is no.Tagged with: Bayer, Daniel Hoffman, Nexavar