Further to this , the Independent commentator writes :-
Today, the people across the world who most need life-saving medicine are being prevented from producing it. Here's the latest example: factories across the poor world are desperate to start producing their own cheaper Tamiflu to protect their populations – but they are being sternly told not to. Why? So rich drug companies can protect their patents – and profits.
The argument in defence of this system offered by Big Pharma is simple, and sounds reasonable at first: we need to charge large sums for "our" drugs so we can develop more life-saving medicines. We want to develop as many treatments as we can, and we can only do that if we have revenue. A lot of the research we back doesn't result in a marketable drug, so it's an expensive process.
But a detailed study by Dr Marcia Angell, the former editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, says that only 14 per cent of their budgets go on developing drugs – usually at the uncreative final part of the drug-trail. The rest goes on marketing and profits. And even with that puny 14 per cent, drug companies squander a fortune developing "me-too" drugs – medicines that do exactly the same job as a drug that already exists, but has one molecule different, so they can take out a new patent, and receive another avalanche of profits.
As a result, the US Government Accountability Office says that far from being a font of innovation, the drug market has become "stagnant". They spend virtually nothing on the diseases that kill the most human beings, like malaria, because the victims are poor, so there's hardly any profit to be sucked out.
Why would we keep this system, if it is so bad? The drug companies have spent more than $3bn on lobbyists and political "contributions" over the past decade in the US alone. They have paid politicians to make the system work in their interests.
Needless to say , having pin-pointed the problem , Hari's solution becomes pie in the sky wishful thinking by endorsing Joseph Stiglitz, the recent Nobel Prize winner for economics who says: "Research needs money, but the current system results in limited funds being spent in the wrong way."
Stiglitz's plan that governments of the Western world should establish a multi-billion dollar prize fund that will give payments to scientists who develop cures or vaccines for diseases. The highest prizes would go to cures for diseases that kill millions of people, like malaria.
The real question is not about whether we can afford medical research . It is about whether we can afford the profit system and the capitalist class.The whole purpose of capitalist production is to realise a profit. If, in protecting their patents, drug firms condemn millions to an early grave; well, that is just the logic of the market place. Capitalism is no more to blame for swine flu than for an earthquake or volcanic eruption , however it can be criticized for its way of dealing with natural disasters and threats. In capitalism, whatever the urgency, nothing can happen until agreement has been reached over money. Diseases among social animals are common, and since the agricultural revolution brought humans into close and sustained contact with other social or herd animals, we have acquired many of their diseases and to fight them and protect ourselves, we need something better than capitalism.