Big Pharma is the nickname that brings together all the world’s largest multinational drug companies, it is the powerful lobby that has a monopoly on our health care. The diseases that afflict the population, especially the most terrible are the source of its earnings. For Big Pharma then chronic diseases are a fortune because as we know the stated aim of multinationals is not helping others but make profits on others’ needs. Consequently, for those multinationals, producing a drug at low cost which can be really effective in a definitive way is not a good investment.
We can take as example Italy and the case of Avastin and Lucentis, two drugs for the treatment of a degenerative disease that can lead to blindness. Italian authorities have found out that Roche and Novartis, two multinational companies, who sell those two drugs, were excluding Roche’s Avastin from the market to focus the demand towards Lucentis. The two drugs are identical, the only difference is their cost, in fact Avastin costs between €15 and €80 per dose and Lucentis costs €900. The two multinationals have been fined € 182 million for putting in place agreements to restrain competition and to limit the consumption of the less expensive drug (Avastin) encouraging the consumption of the most expensive (Lucentis).
It is important to highlight that this does not happen only in Italy, but unfortunately all over the world, in Europe, America and including developing countries. In fact, I remember that during a guest lecture in February, Mrs Anna Bertmar who provides regional operations support for the MENA region for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), explained how HIV/AIDS drugs were overpriced and inaccessible to developing countries’ populations and how MSF fought to unlock the restrictions to produce a generic production of a new drug which today is accessible to all people who need it.
It is evident that Big Pharma is the winner in Global Political Economy and consumers are the losers, because in this capitalist world where profits are the most important goals to achieve, it benefits from the diseases that afflict the population and takes advantages of the desperate needs of patients, to create unjust profits, by overpricing drugs and manipulating the competition of other drugs in the market. It conditions consumers’ freedom of choice and affect the judgments and the therapeutic choices of doctors by manipulating their risk perception of drugs’ side effects. All this to maximize the revenues.
Francesca Urso (Dubai Campus)