Monday, September 19, 2011

Putting drug company profits over people

Apparently the United States' "Responsibility to Protect" poor innocent people wherever they may live is limited to bombing and occupying their countries. Sacrificing some of the pharmaceutical industry's billions of dollars in profits so that poor innocent people wherever they may live may . . . live? Ha!

From The New York Times:
[G]eneric drug companies say they are on the verge of selling cheaper copies of such huge sellers as Herceptin for breast cancer, Avastin for colon cancer, Rituxan for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis. Their entry into the market in the next year — made possible by hundreds of millions of dollars invested in biotechnology plants — could not only transform the care of patients in much of the world but also ignite a counterattack by major pharmaceutical companies and diplomats from richer countries.
Already, the Obama administration has been trying to stop an effort by poorer nations to strike a new international bargain that would allow them to get around patent rights and import cheaper Indian and Chinese knock-off drugs for cancer and other diseases, as they did to fight AIDS. The debate turns on whether diseases like cancer can be characterized as emergencies, or “epidemics.”
Rich nations and the pharmaceutical industry agreed 10 years ago to give up patent rights and the profits that come with them in the face of an AIDS pandemic that threatened to depopulate much of Africa, but they see deaths from cancer, diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases as less of an emergency and, in some cases, the inevitable consequence of better and longer living.
The inevitable consequence of putting patents and the monopoly profits they secure politically influential pharmaceutical companies over the interests of cancer-stricken patients is that many people will die preventable deaths. And Ronald Reagan's generic knockoff is cool with that. But hey, we all gotta go some time. It's inevitable, ya know

(via Chase Madar)


  1. I really hate it when they try to pass off cancer and diabetes as results of living longer. The lifespan of a human has not increased all that much; increases in life span statistics are due in large part to decreases in infant mortality rates. In other words, they haven't made the human body capable of living longer, they've made it so more human bodies have a chance to. If you want to look for causes of things like cancer and diabetes I'd first suggest looking at a highly industrialized food supply. When so much of what we ingest these days came out of a manufacturing plant, well, something seems amiss to me.

  2. The food supply for sure, but I think the major cause of cancer is probably all the plastics and other toxic shit we're surrounded by everyday, everywhere. The office, the car, at home, we're always breathing in a bunch of garbage, as well as sitting in it. Plus, cell phones probably aren't very good for us either.

  3. Cancer is a disease of industrial society. The great majority of carcinogenic substances are products of industrialization.

    Naturally occurring cancers were rare before the industrial revolution.

    Lots of modern chemicals contain mutagens, which often are precursors (genetically speaking) to cancers. In other words, something can be a direct carcinogen, or it can be a mutagen whose triggered mutation later yields a form of cancer.

    Diabetes often is a product of poor diet and sedentary behavior -- being a fat & lazy couch potato is a great way to encourage diabetes in one's self.

    A connection could be surmised between living longer via industrialized medicine, and cancers and diabetes. The longer one lives, the more chances one has to induce diabetes through sedentary behavior and poor diet. The longer one lives through modern "medicine" -- Rx and electromagnetic radiation diagnostics -- the more opportunities one has for cancerous growths.

  4. It's odd to read people who insist that "cancer is a disease of industrial society," because the claim is demonstrably false.

    The Romans, Persians, Greeks, Chinese and countless other historically proved cultures and societies reported cancer, and attempts to treat it.

    Non-industrialized peoples suffer from cancer, because cancer is (very generally) a set of mutations within the everyday and normal division of previously healthy cells.

    Sunlight contributes directly to cancer, with or without industrial society. So too does living in very rural New Hampshire, above granite and uranium deposits which off-gas radon, and which were stuck down there in the bedrock ere an industrialized European ever dropped a conqueror's foot on local soil. Cancer has also also been linked to viral infections, which certainly predate any sort of industrialization.

    Perhaps one could argue that the toxins from industrial society increase the rates of cancer's occurrence, or at least its confirmed reporting, but it's just false to blame "industrial society" for cancer itself.

  5. Chase Madar1:25 PM

    Yo. Charlie Davis. Love your blog, glad I could bring this Times article to your attention.

    A few thoughts:
    I don't believe in the Holy Free Market but on this issue there is lotsa room for left-lib-rad types to work with conservative-libertarian-free market types. We all hate IP law; a different IP regime would foster competition that (in this case) really would bring prices down, all for the best. Call it a deregulation, call it a reregulation; it is not our collective responsibility to ensure astronomical margins for Big Pharma.

    Big Pharma tends to have much higher profit margins than other Fortune 500 companies. The spin that Big Pharma uses to justify this is ridiculous, but frequently swallowed whole even by many people who should know better. The margins, they say, are necessary because R&D costs are so high in this industry. Hey, ya can't afford the R&D without high profit margins, duh, goes the spurious tautology. But of course this is crap: R&D is a cost that is deducted from revenue before profits are arrived at; they could still spend the same on R&D with tighter margins. So much pharma R&D is publicly funded anyway; it's a disgrace that this huge public investment gets converted into big corporate profits... ideally the whole industry would be nationalized.

    Needless to say, it is sad how thoroughly Big Pharma seems to have captured the State Department. Some of the WikiLeaked cables from the French consulate (and probably others elsewhere) show the highsteppers of our diplomatic corps shilling for Big Pharma especially vividly. Ptui, it's disgusting.

    Yo, keep up great work. P'alante p'alante, Ch

  6. Jack, you really need to grow up. It's not a "demonstrably false" claim any more than your birth name is "Jack Crow."

    You gave a few examples of cancers that precede industry. I didn't say it was exclusively industrial.

    You really, really need to grow up. For a middle aged man with a storied life of many experiences, you reveal yourself more and more to be an intolerant, impatient and ignorant sort.

  7. I trust that's your best argument, Karl?

  8. Well, in Karl's defense there are some ehh, inaccuracies, in your post. For one, sunlight does not "contribute directly to cancer" any more than food contributes directly to obesity. In fact, getting moderate amounts of sun exposure stimulates vitamin D production which has been shown to help suppress cancer cell production. It is only when sunlight exposure is excessive that it stimulates cancer cell growth.

  9. I mentioned nothing of modest/extraordinary amounts of exposure, Todd. Nor did I suggest that sunlight was only harmful.

    Sunlight contributes to cancer. UVB radiation is directly linked to cancer. That doesn't mean every ray of sunlight will cause cancer. It means that "sunlight contributes directly to cancer," regardless of some of its benefits.

  10. Chase,

    Glad you like the blog. And thanks for the help digging up this article. There's definitely potential for a left-right coalition against drug patents, just not involving anyone in Washington, it seems, where Dean Baker and a few libertarians dancing at the Jefferson memorial are the only ones even paying attention to the issue.

    The rest of you,

    Settle down.

  11. I'm calmer than you are!

  12. OT: Evildoers and US

    Great start, but you'll see why it made me think of this blog before the end.

    Plus the title is just too rich. My imagination ran away with that one.