Thursday, June 04, 2015

Big Pharma Profits

The world’s eleven largest drug companies made a net profit of $711.4 billion from 2003 to 2012. Six of these companies are headquartered in the United Sates: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly.

Drug company profits are literally killing people - and now even doctors are speaking out. Dr. Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, rebuked the pharmaceutical industry for the sharp rise in cancer drug prices over the last decade. Dr. Saltz explained part of the problem: "Cancer-drug prices are not related to the value of the drug. Prices are based on what has come before and what the seller believes the market will bear."

The median monthly price for new cancer drugs nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014 - from a monthly cost of $4,716 between 2000 and 2004 to a monthly cost of about $9,900 between 2010 and 2014.

A feature of our current system is that pharmaceutical companies don't have to worry about what people can afford to pay for a product. Because monopolies set their own prices. And that's what a patent is: a state-backed monopoly on a product. Patents last for 20 years after filing, and drug companies even enjoy special extensions to make up for delays in FDA approval. And that means that drug companies don't have to worry about competitive pricing or creating demand because the consumer can only choose between treatment or misery and death.

So when a company develops a drug that treats a life-threatening illness, they can simply set their price: $1,000 per pill for Hepatitis C treatment; $10,000 for a month of cancer treatment; $300,000 for the year of treatment.

Can't pay? Don't want to pay? Maybe you'd prefer to die. It's all the same to the companies. Businesses that make our medicine don't do it for public health - they do it for profit. A two-tiered society has been created: those who can afford to pay to stay alive, and those who can't.

Medicine + the profit system (aka capitalism) = death and disease. Simple as that.