In this world the profit motive is considered the holy of holies. In the infamous words of the movie character Gordon Gekko: “Greed is good.”
“There’s no doubt — I’m a capitalist, I’m trying to create a big drug company, a successful drug company, a profitable drug company,” asserted Martin Shkreli, the former hedge fund manager and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
Shkreli justified a 5000% price rise on a 60 year old drug as being altruistic because he would finance more research with the money he extorted from the sick vulnerable patients-cum-customers.
Pharmaceutical companies have profit margins similar to those of the banking sector. Pharmaceutical companies never seem to mention that much more of their spending actually goes towards marketing than research.
According to a peer-reviewed study reported by the medical journal The BMJ, for every $1 spent on basic research, $19 goes toward promotion and marketing.
In 2013, one of the biggest drug companies, Johnson & Johnson, spent $17.5 billion on sales and marketing compared to $8.2 billion on R&D overall.
Furthermore, while the price of drug development by the pharmaceutical companies has been estimated to be in the billions, a study from 2011 found that a great deal of funding comes from the government and private universities – 84% of basic research, in fact.
Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio in 1955, and said to a journalist, who asked about a patent: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” which expresses the socialist principle of from each according to ability, to each according to need.
We have actually been treated to two examples of what Karl Marx once called ‘Capitalism red in tooth and claw” the other being Volkswagen’s admission that it cheated on emission tests hid their cars higher rate of pollution. If a corporation can so easily bend the regulations, what does it say to those who hope that with the upcoming COP21 agreement countries will honestly self-monitor their own carbon emissions and comply with limits.