The legitimacy and responsibility of the global pharmaceutical industry came under question when Martin Shkreli, CEO and Founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG decided last month to raise the price of a drug Daraprim, used to treat HIV by 5455 percent from $13.5 to $750, per tablet. The reason for the ultra-exorbitant price hike he offered was- ‘altruistic’ in his own words- that the drug manufacturing is not profitable at the current price and the profit gained through this hike could be used for further research on more lethal diseases. Meanwhile, it is estimated that it takes $1 to make a tablet Daraprim.The license to manufacture pyrimethamine to treat AIDS, some kinds of cancers and malaria under the brand Daraprim has long ceased to exist since 1953. Shkreli obtained the manufacturing license to become the only manufacturer of pyrimethamine in the United States, and hence went for the killing price hike.
This is not the only time Shkreli ordered for a price hike. Last year, the price of Thiola, a drug used in the treatment of chronic kidney diseases, was increased to $42 from a mere $2. He can do it as he is the only person to own the drug in the country.
After a recent vehement public outcry and being named as ‘America’s most hated man,’ the former hedge fund manager decided to lower the price of Daraprim. This incident has become a wake-up call alarming the consequences of this greedy, hideous trend happening across the globe.
The horrors of pharmaceutical industry through its various forms including pharmaceutical lobbying, clinical trials and patent wars can be spine-chilling. Being considered as one of the most profitable of the industries, these corporate companies put dollar bills ahead of the safety and well-being of the patients.The prices of drugs in the United States are not negotiated by the government, as it is prevented by a controversial Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. In US, the drug lobby or big pharma is a group of people representing huge pharmaceutical companies that flex their financial muscle power to influence political decisions and other bureaucratic institutions to gain favour for their industry and the drugs they manufacture. They have spent nearly 900 million between the years 1998 and 2005, to curry favours of political institutions, say reports of Center for Responsive Politics. The cost of pharmaceutical lobbying in Europe is more than 40 million Euros a year, claim reports.
These drug companies also pay the physicians so that they prescribe medicines they manufacture to patients. Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical corporation has spent $30 million in paying 4500 doctors along with 250 research organization during a period of 6 months in 2009.
The most egregious of all the horrors is the human trials conducted by these companies. One of the mandatory needs to conduct human trials is the informed consent of the patient, as required by the Nuremberg Code, about the risks involved in the drugs used. In Nuremberg, Germany, there were a lot of crimes committed in the Nazi concentration camps, when medical tests are done on the captives. Hence in the August of 1947, Nuremberg codes were introduced that demanded the informed consent of the patients during a clinical trial along with ten other requirements.As most of the trials are conducted in developing countries and hence due to a poor literacy rate, this mandate could be easily forgone as the patients remain ignorant to the risks using the experiment drugs.
Disease mongering is another method through which diseases are sold, medications and diagnosis are offered extraneously to patients to improve sales and raise more revenue.
Thus, a sacrosanct service of health care providers has become more of a business involving billions of dollars, where diseases have become products. Millions are spent on spreading awareness about diseases and marketing their treatment so that more money can be earned, as it is the primary goal of any business.
When it comes to a choice between money and life, currently the pharmaceutical industry prefers money over life. Life doesn’t seem to be a valuable dividend in this business.
Related Video: Turning Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli speaks to CBS News