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Issue #1707      October 21, 2015

That’s capitalism …

Big Pharma

There is one area of cost-cutting where the Australian and US governments could save millions of dollars if it had the political will, and that is the amount it pays for items on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Big Pharma is taking it to the cleaners.

Consumers are now taking things into their own hands by legally importing medications at a fraction of the cost. The FixHepC website publicised by Fairfax media (September 26-27 and October 3-4) has helped thousands of Hepatitis C patients import the new drugs they need and rapidly achieve full recovery.

In America sufferers are charged $84,000 by Gilead Sciences for new Interferon-free medicines which are quicker and have less side effects. The imports from China, India and Bangladesh cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for a cure.

The companies argue that the high prices are to cover the expense of research. But this does not explain how these companies are spending more on marketing and political lobbying than research.

In fact, some of these vultures do not spend a cent on research and development. Take for example former hedge fund manager and Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli.

Turing bought the marketing rights of Daraprim which is used to treat a potentially deadly parasite. The medication had been on the market for 62 years. Shkreli jacked up the price overnight by 5,000 percent from $13.50 a pill to $750. Who can afford to buy 30 pills at that price?

His response to the media on twitter was:

“And it seems like the media immediately points a finger at me

“So I point one back at em, but not the index or pinkie” (@martinshkreli)

In another scandal, Rodelis Therapeutics acquired Cycloserine, a tuberculosis medication, from the Purdue Research Foundation. The price rocketed from $US500 for 30 capsules to $US10,800. Public embarrassment when it was outed, saw the price reduced to $US1,050 for 30 capsules.

Again, who can afford that, in particular in poor countries where tuberculosis is likely to be found.

The system of private-for-profit production and so-called intellectual property (patenting) is sentencing millions of people to death. It is nothing short of criminal.

The research and manufacture of medications should be by the pubic sector. This would overnight make them cheaper by removing the massive layer of profits, marketing and political lobbying costs. It also removes any incentive to fraudulently distort research outcomes and removes the conflict of interest that arises when maximisation of profits is the prime goal, not health outcomes.

Next article – Property in hands of weetapoona

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