The profit motive of pharma giants is harming our health

GK Bangladesh 2018 Kristof Vadino
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Doctor Manzur Kadir Ahmed of GK Bangladesh, an organisation WSM has been working with for many years, launches an appeal on World Health Day to make sure we do not give up the fight against pharmaceutical giants.
'In the production of medicines, health and welfare of people should come first. This is not the case at all today. We will continue to oppose the pharmaceutical companies' pursuit of profit, but it is important that we do so together.'
Doctor Manzur Kadir Ahmed

In Belgium as well, pharmaceuticals are increasingly unavailable. Although proven effective, pharmaceuticals are taken off the market because they do not bring in enough money. Many medicines never even see the light of day because pharma companies don’t see enough money in them. The functioning of the market fails, and it is the patient who bears the burden. An downright disaster for people in poverty and for diseases that are especially prevalent in low-income countries.


‘Pharmaceutical companies need to adopt a business approach different from the present profit driven one,’ says Dr Kadir. ‘While producing medicines, the priority should be health and wellbeing of lives. The mission of the pharma sector should be broader, i.e., develop and produce medicines for the diseases of the majority of the global population, which are available at an affordable price. Otherwise, progress and achievement in this sector will become futile.  


Priority of pharmaceutical companies is decided on the profit opportunity. The management of giants focuses on development or production of medicines which are primarily required to treat the disease of the rich people assuming that the product will have a profitable market. Moreover, they mainly focus on chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, whose treatment require prolong duration. Allocating resources to innovate and produce medicines to treat diseases of the people of poor countries or poor people of the rich countries is not frequently visible in the pharmaceutical landscape. Though the Covid-19 pandemic changed lot of things, however, the pharmaceutical companies still found to be linked to different efforts to maximize profit from the pandemic.


Patents and other exclusive rights are used by transnationals or large national companies to keep their monopolistic technological dominance. This trend of profit driven policy of the pharma companies led to increasing inaccessibility to the scientific development by the global majority. As a consequence of such trend, many essential medicines may never get developed. Actually, monetary profit is still overruling the social and humanitarian profit, by which the pharmaceutical giants are depriving global majority from achieving healthy living. 


GK has always advocated pro-people national and global policy to ensure essential medicines to every citizen. In order to put that vision into practice, we have started a pharmaceutical manufacturing industry long back to produce our own medicines. With support from national and international community, we eventually succeeded to overcome the resistance from the pharma companies. National Drug Policy 1982 was considered revolutionary and greatly appreciated by the world leading public health experts and followed by a number of countries later on. This bold stand against the manipulation of transnational pharmaceutical giants has helped Bangladesh become the pharma exporting country by building strong national capacity to produce medicines by the local industries.


But the fight is not over yet. The local companies are growing big and their attitude and influence has become like the transnationals. Therefore, the fight of GK to ensure all essential medicines for every citizen is still on, i.e., struggle against the corporate politics of pharma giants, whatever the nature of ownership.’ 


Together with social movements all around the world, WSM stands up for accessible and quality healthcare for all. It is a fundamental right for everyone, wherever you may live.