Humanitarian Pharmaceuticals?

Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:04

Originally written: 02 May 2005

According to a Canadian Press news story, a senior official at Industry Canada, Doug Clark, said that the Pledge to Africa Act assumed that pharmaceutical companies would export drugs for humanitarian reasons.

That is a huge assumption, based on propaganda not reality. Most people appear to accept on faith, that profit making companies exist to fulfill human needs. Reaping profits is not a secondary activity of a business; it is the primary activity and the reason for the existence of the business. It is obvious that if there is no real need, and no “need” can be created, then the business cannot sell its products to make a profit. The needs are a means to an end: profit.

The lives of human beings in Africa are being destroyed by AIDS, malaria and other easily treated diseases. Passed into law almost a year ago, the Pledge to Africa Act permitted the “generic” drug companies to produce patented medications for sale only in “poor” countries if the companies charged only the cost of manufacturing plus fifteen percent. Perhaps that does not yield a sufficient profit. Perhaps the companies feared lawsuits from the patent holders because that would trim profits further.

According to UNAIDS, in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are more than 25 million people infected with HIV, and 2.3 million people died of AIDS in 2004.

The humanitarian aspect was not sufficient to overcome the profit aspect. It never is. Sometimes a business will use “loss leaders” (selling below normal profit levels) to lure purchasers. But even then, the intent is to generate sufficient profit from other sales while the purchasers are in the store, or from future sales. The HIV/AIDS sufferers in “poor” countries are not likely to generate much future profits.

Perhaps the politicians do not know that profit comes first! Perhaps they do, but wanted to trick us! In either case, those who need medication are not receiving it because they are not a satisfactory market: selling drugs to them will not generate sufficient profits.
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