Saturday, January 31, 2015

Big Pharma Mobilises

Pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Pharmaceutical companies spend 11% of their income on R & D and 40 % of their income promoting their brand.

As it is, most of the important innovations come out of universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.

A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for hundreds of millions around the world. Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.

Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we’re not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation.

Big Pharma boasts the largest lobbying group in Washington, and is pulling the puppet strings of far too many government officials. The whole world pays the real price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.

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