Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Increasing Access to Essential Medicines

Drug companies, like other businesses, are profit-driven. They pour their billions of dollars into marketing and research of whatever we consumers will pay for. This is why they put more research and marketing into things such as "erectile dysfunction" and common ailments of old age (restless leg syndrome) instead of things that affect the younger and less fortunate in society.

Some more interesting facts:
  • The Pharm. Industry spends about $19 billion on gifts to physicians every year.
  • "Free Samples" greatly influence physicians' prescribing practices and negatively influence the care patients receive.
  • The pharmaceutical industry collectively spends more on marketing than on research and development.
  • The cost of marketing is passed onto patients in the form of higher drug prices
Global Health suffers due to profit-driven practices:
  • Worldwide, only 25% of HIV+ patients needing treatment actually are receiving the life-saving medications that have been developed
  • Many of the diseases that affect 90% of the world's population only receive 10% of the research and development funds because they predominantly affect poor people (the so-called "neglected diseases")
  • The price of existing medicines remains one of the major barriers to access around the world.
What do we do about this? I don't know. The most effective solution will be legislative changes, however, this currently remains nearly impossible because the Pharm industry's lobbying presence (influence on the government) is much stronger and larger than any other industry.

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