Saturday, July 15, 2006

Big Pharma: Who prophits? Part 2

Normally, in business, you identify a need that is not currently being met and develop a product or service that meets that need. You then work out whether demand for your product or service will be sufficient and enduring enough to ensure any business you set up to provide that product or service will be profitable. Finally, you ensure that there is no viable competition already providing a similar product or service which could dilute your client/customer base. If all of these criteria can be met, hey presto, you can set up in business and provide a product or service that meets a need at a price that people are willing to pay and makes you a tidy profit! Right? Wrong! Life and business never runs that smoothly! Someone may come along and provide a better product or service, or a similar one at a lower price! [Undercut them, out-advertise them, discredit them or their product/service with negative publicity] Raw materials or production/labour cost may rise, cutting into profits. [Find cheaper sources of raw materials, cut corners, cut labour!] You may be a victim of your own success; your product or service may be so good that customers do not need to come back for more! [Use built-in redudancy features which mean customers have to keep coming back for upgrades!]

All of these things can and do happen! Some businesses inevitably go to the wall, while the more unscrupulous ones survive: it's a dog eat dog world! This is truest of all for Big Pharma! I think the pharmaceutical business started out with honourable intentions, but as profits spiralled upwards, greed replaced ethics. We have all probably donated money to the various bodies claiming to be researching cures for some of the major ills that afflict us in the industrialised world: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, MS and now AIDS. How long have some of these organisations been raising funds and doing research? Decades? Has any one of them come close to a cure? The answer is NO! There are a whole plethora of drugs that have been developed to manage symptoms, some may even claim to have provided a cure in a small number of cases, but generally people who do recover do so in spite of these drugs not because of them! I say this because most drugs are synthetic inorganic chemicals that have a far more toxic effect than they do a curative one. Why synthetic? Because a drug company cannot patent a natural substance and if they cannot patent something, they cannot make exclusive and explosive profits on it. Take Aspirin as an example. Long ago, people living in cold and damp areas around the world would occasionally suffer from the pain and inflamation of rheumatism. Coincidentally, willow trees also tended to grow in damp areas [ man has needs - nature provides!] and these people discovered that if they chewed on the bark of the willow tree it lessened the pain and inflamation of their rheumatism! As far as is recorded, there were no incidences of stomach problems, ulcers or internal bleeding with this natural remedy. Fast forward to the dawn of the industrial revolution and an enterprising man wondered "What is it, in willow bark, that is so efficacious in easing pain and inflamation?". And so salicylic acid, the "active ingredient" in willow bark was isolated. Now, once you have isolated a chemical substance (even an organic naturally occurring one) and identified it's exact chemical structure, you can now produce the chemical, synthetically, in large quantities and at relatively low cost. Because it is a synthetically produced chemical compound you can patent it and make exclusive profits on its sale! Lo and behold, Aspirin was born! Unfortunately, having developed this cash cow, those involved didn't stop to wonder if there were other substances in the willow bark that acted with the salicylic acid to neutralise its more negative effects on the gut (i.e., irritation and bleeding)! This same "tunnel vision" approach is true of every drug developed since. Of course, if someone were to dare to suggest maybe we should go back to nature and investigate the curative potential of willow bark as an analgesic, we would have the pharmaceutical and medical mainstream up in arms! How dare anyone suggest we go back to an unpatentable and less profitable natural substance when we can peddle this cheap to produce, highly profitable synthetic chemical instead! So what if it has potentially lethal side effects? We can always offer another drug by way of symptom management! So what if it has potentially lethal side effects? We can always offer another drug by way of symptom management! And so on, and so on ad nauseam!
So we see just some of the ways Big Pharma maintains its stranglehold on the profitable business of healthcare...Use relatively cheap-to-produce synthetic chemicals which can be patented to provide maximum profits. Don't worry over much if they do not cure the illness and cause potentially serious side effects...it keeps customers coming back for more and more lucrative drugs! If a potential competitor threatens our profits with a better or cheaper natural alternative use all of our corporate power to discredit them and close them down (i.e., via the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS)!
To be continued....

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