Oh dear, I thought, am I really becoming flaky and paranoid? Will I wake up tomorrow believing that 9/11 was indeed an inside job, or that The Holocaust never really happened, or that the world's corporations and individual billionaires have far too much influence over how government policy is decided and implemented?
Actually the last part is very much something that I believe in - based in part upon the evidence of the widening and seemingly irreversible gap between the rich/very rich and everybody else. The other stuff, however - along with ideas about Roswell, alien lizards and Elvis - is clearly horse poo, ideas which spread among the world's less intellectually blessed through the wonderful world of the web (www?). SO, I experienced a moment of skepticism-induced doubt about my thoughts on the world's major drug companies...but only for a moment. I can't square the circle of having profit as the aim for any company which is supposed to produce life-enhancing/preserving/protecting drugs. The two do not make happy bed-fellows.
Then, yesterday, I came across the following short article from the CBC which independently proposes a similar idea.
Now; I am not an original thinker - I make no claims about being the first to realise anything (I just have moments which are firsts for ME), but it does give me a cozy feeling in my spleen (!) when I find mainstream media picking up on similar issues and running with them.
I used to work (in a reasonably elevated position - and I don't mean up a ladder) for a pharmacy retailer. Guess what the most expensive, most profitable drugs were? HIV/AIDS medications and Cancer medications. Diabetes medications are up there too. In the case of AIDS and HIV, the drugs seem to be very effective these days at prolonging life and almost completely controlling symptoms and possible complications. These drugs are therefore self-supporting in commercial terms: keep people alive and you keep the market alive. The same is true for diabetes meds.
For cancer, there is a slightly different scenario, in that a large proportion of the population (for which, read: the market) will suffer from some kind of cancer during their lives - usually in the latter quarter of a typical life span. While a person is being treated for cancer, the profits generated by each individual are pretty darned impressive; in commercial terms, each person is a great opportunity. I know how that sounds: it sounds horribly clinical and it sounds a little paranoid. However, make no mistake; I was present in meetings where patients are spoken of as merely numbers, nothing more than raw statistics - because profit-driven corporations think only in those terms. If you believe that drug companies regard the population as individuals deserving of their compassion, frankly; you're not thinking straight.
While individual doctors and nurses and other health care providers tend to be compassionate people who experience their patients in individual ways and AS individuals, hospital boards and managers do not - in order to function as business units, they simply cannot afford the time to do so. Profit is only about the numbers game; compassion doesn't - can't come into it.
So, I find it actually rather easy to accept that the drug companies (massive, multi-national money-making machines that they are) find little to attract them to really finding cures for many of our most blighting illnesses, when such afflictions represent cash-cows for the business.
Once again: with all the money available out there, why is that cancer research funding is so heavily supported through charitable foundations? Why are projects to eradicate malaria being funded privately? How many times have we heard about cancer treatment 'breakthroughs', only for them to disappear into the mists of time?
If it's a question of media coverage - if the messages simply aren't getting through - then shame on the media and the drug companies for not making sure that messages get through, but somehow, I doubt that it's the case. Just as alternative energy never seems to make it past the cottage industry stage when regulated by governments subject to massive pressure from oil and gas companies, the chances for medical breakthroughs to make it to the population may be limited by the interests of the drug giants, for whom it makes no sense to eradicate a major source of demand for their most profitable products.
It's a weird, corrupt and cynical world out there in the sphere of global capitalism; if it makes money it's a good thing. That kind of ethical standpoint is something that more of us could do with waking up to, and taking notice of. Rich people and rich companies don't often get to be that way by being compassionate, empathic or, I suspect, ethical.