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Drugs for Profit or Human Need?

March 23, 2020 © Copyright Glomacs

The cure for the pandemic is still looming at large. Has the pharmaceutical industry so far failed?

The privatized health care model is producing drugs for profit rather than human need. It can’t provide the medicines we need to combat deadlier epidemics.

You might think that the proliferation of epidemics would lead to increased R&D of new drug development. The exact opposite might be happening; there’s little effort by major pharmaceutical companies. They might have all but abandoned the research required to develop new antibiotics.

Leigh Phillips, the science writer, in his 2013 case for socializing big pharma, mentioned that large pharmaceutical corporations had mostly stopped producing new antibiotics by the 1980s. Simple reasoning explains this; bringing new antibiotics is rarely profitable to research and develop. Unlike drugs that treat chronic conditions, the use of antibiotics is generally for a short time period until infections are cured. Unlike chronic health medicines, antibiotics cannot be sold to a base of long-term customers, a less attractive investment proposition for drug companies.

Our capitalist system, which treats fundamental necessities like medicines as commodities are to be blamed for this. Medicines are produced to make profits and available on sale in the market, a sufficiently high return on investment guides this decision.

The pharmaceutical industry’s failure to address the looming pandemic crisis is just another instance of this growing problem.  De-commodifying essential medicines and antibiotics and freeing drug development from market logic might be a solution. In order to ensure rapid development of antibiotics to treat emerging pandemics, publicly funded, and democratically managed drug production and distribution system might be a solution.

De-commodifying antibiotics and bringing research and development under public control might help to avoid similar pandemics in the future.

Ideally, the world should be having a vaccine yesterday—one that we can mass-produce and apply to every human being on Earth.

It will take a while in reality. As we know now, only short-term solutions, including social distancing, is what we can count on at the moment. But there is hope.

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