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Drug Giant Pledges Cheap Medicine For World's Poor 317

Posted by kdawson
from the shamed-into-it dept.
bmsleight writes in with a Guardian piece on the decision of the world's second biggest pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, to radically shift its attitude towards providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world. "[The new CEO] said that GSK will... cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US — and less if possible — and make drugs more affordable in middle-income countries such as Brazil and India; put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a 'patent pool,' so they can be explored by other researchers; and reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics, and staff."
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Drug Giant Pledges Cheap Medicine For World's Poor

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  • by wisty (1335733) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:17AM (#26871291)

    It's not generous, it's just good sales. Maybe greed is good though.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:42AM (#26871441) Homepage

      Also, since we're talking about drugs here, the phrase "first hit is free" comes readily to mind.

      Another factor here is that drug companies want Latin America in particular to develop medical systems dependent on their drugs, rather than trying to replicate the Cuban model which doesn't rely on US drug companies and still manages to get pretty good results. It's sort of like what Intel and MS did to the OLPC project.

      • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:44AM (#26872027)
        So, their bastards for charging more than people can afford for life saving medicine that now only costs cents to manufacture (having already spent the millions on R&D), but they are also bastards when they reduce the cost, because they'll get everyone hooked on their drugs.

        This strikes me as a Win/Win type situation for BlackHat conspiracy folks.
        • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @01:56PM (#26874575) Journal

          Actually many of the drugs are found by universities using federal dollars and THEN the drug companies buy the rights and bend you over. Allow me to introduce you to a drug I am familiar with as I am on it-Remicade [wikipedia.org], which as you can see on the Wiki was developed at NY school of medicine. Do you know how much they charge for 8 treatments(1 year) of the stuff? $67,898. That's right, you could shoot pure platinum into your veins for cheaper.

          And it isn't like it only treats some super rare condition either. It has been approved and works wonders on psoriasis, Crohn's disease, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis and ulcerative colitis. Wow, that's a lot of folks. I wonder how many are suffering now because they can't actually get it? I would LOVE to see the profit margins on the drug, because I'm guessing by the tiny little vials they are probably making in the 2000-4000% profit range. Because you certainly don't get much for your $67k.

          but if you look up the numbers the biggest expense of the major drug companies is NOT R&D, it is advertising. All those irritating ads pushing you to tell your doctor you want their pill o' the week. I bet the profit margins on THOSE drugs are beyond insane which is why they push them so hard. But if we don't get a handle on the multi $$$$% profits the drug companies are making we are ALL going to lose, as we simply can't pay for the drugs for ourselves as well as the "charity" they show the third world (and make up the difference with our insurance). The gravy train is coming to an end and the economy ain't going to be getting better anything soon folks. I actually know folks living by candlelight because the choice was paying their rent or their lights. So the drug companies better learn to live on the margins like the rest of us unless they want us to go to nationalized health care.

      • by goombah99 (560566)

        Does the cuban model respect the patents on the pills?

        Like digital music replication of medicines is not always expensive. But the R&D costs are enormous.

        For example, just to get single drug through clinical trials is, according to Merc, about half a billion dollars, and most drugs in the pipeline will not make it all the way to the end. And that does not include any of the R&D costs to discover the drug.

        If cuba just replicates drugs without royalties then one could presumably cut costs enormousl

        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday February 16, 2009 @01:52PM (#26874531) Homepage

          Does the Cuban model respect the patents on the pills?

          Their health care system is geared towards reducing the need for pills: general practitioners in Cuba focus a lot of their efforts on preventative care, and also receive extensive training in herbal, nutritional, and behavioral solutions to health problems. This was started in large part out of necessity: Cuba simply can't afford a lot of pills, and hasn't had significant access to US goods since 1959.

          So whether they respect the patent isn't really important, because they can't get the pill to copy in the first place. The reason the Cuban system is particularly relevant to discussions of Latin American health care is that many countries (notably Bolivia, Venezuela, and Brazil) have all made efforts to copy Cuba's methods.

    • by Aladrin (926209)

      Greed is good, actually, when used properly. When used improperly, it's very destructive to the person who is greedy, as well as everything they touch with it.

      • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

        Greed is destructive, I think you mean capitalism is good when used properly. When used improperly, it's greed. Greed leads to things like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. If you understand how the goose works and let it work for you, that's using resources properly.

        Greed in the world of big pharma means stifling diabetes cures because insulin is such a cash cow. Treating symptoms with long courses of drugs instead of solving the problem. Greed is setting up a financial house of cards, and n

      • I would separate 'greed' from normal self interest.

        I consider greed to be excess self interest that misses the larger picture and results in a worse outcome for all in the long run.

        Enlightened self interest says I can benefit more over time by not trying to brutally screw everyone else in the world in the near term.

        I own a hefty chunk of GSK stock, so I will find out first hand how this plays out financially in the long run.

    • the first tablet (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spectrokid (660550)
      Remember that in pharma, the first tablet you press costs a gazillion dollar, the second one 1 cent. If you are in a country where you can ten-double sales by slashing 75% of the price, it is still a smart move.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)

        Of course, such an arrangement is only possible if people respect the "licence" (contract that is a prerequisite of the sale) of the pills.

        That contract is going to specify that export to richer countries is not permitted.

        Suppose this after-sale contract were to be ruled void (which is quite possibly the correct way for a judge to rule given current law), and import allowed, the pharma "giant" will be competing against itself, resulting in massive losses.

        Those massive losses, that stem from not respecting t

    • It's a close cousin to the ever-popular "going green" announcements and product releases. My current favorite for that B.S. is Johnson&Johnson, "a family [owned] company". Then there's "antibacterial" and antimicrobial products.

      All of this can perhaps be filed under the heading of Deliberate Mis-Education. Big Pharma is... wait for it... LE-GEN-DARY for that, including even mis-educating general practitioners as well as consumers. Big Pharma would like the world to completely forget that virtually a

      • Johnson != Johnson (Score:4, Informative)

        by tepples (727027) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .selppet.> on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:54AM (#26872131) Homepage Journal

        My current favorite for that B.S. is Johnson&Johnson, "a family [owned] company".

        I've never heard JNJ referred to as a family company. Are you confusing it with SC Johnson [wikipedia.org], the company that makes Ziploc, Windex, and Scrubbing Bubbles products?

        • My current favorite for that B.S. is Johnson&Johnson, "a family [owned] company".

          I've never heard JNJ referred to as a family company.

          Their TV commercials (used to?) end with the statement "Johnson and Johnson: A family company". Don't know if they still do, since I stopped watching commercials some years ago.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tepples (727027)

            Their TV commercials (used to?) end with the statement "Johnson and Johnson: A family company".

            Did it sound like the end of this commercial [youtube.com]? If so, that's SCJ, not JNJ.

      • by wisty (1335733)

        And what is the bet that a slice of this 20% of profits will be re-invested in "educating" medical staff?

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:21AM (#26871305)

    Consider that just because a nation's average income is relatively high, it does not follow that everyone in that country is able to buy the products at the higher price. Why should people who had the dumb luck to be born in some shithole country be blessed with lower-priced medicine?

    That's not social justice. It's social prejudice.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by easyTree (1042254)

      Social prejudice is this year's racial prejudice.

      Let ppl make a ham-fisted attempt at atoning for past abuses will ya?, jeez ;-)

      • by penix1 (722987) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:19AM (#26871763) Homepage

        That would be all well and good but they aren't atoning for shit here. Let me count the ways for you:

        1. Richer countries like the US and UK are subsidizing this drug program. You don't honestly think GSK is going to give up its profits now do you...

        2. They are putting some of their patents in a "patent pool", whatever that means, instead of doing the real "right thing" and releasing those patents to the public domain. Torpedo patents anyone...

        3. This isn't an attempt to "do good" more than it is an attempt to stop countries from ignoring their patents and developing generics on their own. A little profit is better than no profit in their eyes. Besides, as 1 above suggests, they will make it up off the richer countries.

        This is a multi-billion dollar a year industry we are talking about here. They have no conscience and no morals. Profit is their only motivator. No company does anything out of the goodness of their heart unless it will lead to greater profits and/or market dominance. This is doubly so with the drug industry.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          1. Richer countries like the US and UK are subsidizing this drug program. You don't honestly think GSK is going to give up its profits now do you...

          And how do they plan to stop 1st world countries from importing drugs from their developing brethren?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by penix1 (722987)

            And how do they plan to stop 1st world countries from importing drugs from their developing brethren?

            By introducing legislation banning it. How else? You don't think they have paid out those millions in bribes....er...Campaign contributions for nothing do you? You don't think they hired that army of lobbyists for the good of the people do you?

        • by Xtravar (725372)

          Those are all very good points.

          I also wonder if they are trying to be 'good' before the day of judgment comes. And by that, I mean health care reform in the US. Or perhaps a drug company bailout of some sort.

          I'm just thinking: if one of the US car manufacturers had been extra pursuant of green technologies, or even just displayed some sort of extra good will, they'd probably have gotten better treatment at the bailout hearings.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cirby (2599)

          1. Richer countries like the US and UK are subsidizing this drug program. You don't honestly think GSK is going to give up its profits now do you...

          They've been doing this sort of thing for decades, and YES, they've been giving up profits.

          2. They are putting some of their patents in a "patent pool", whatever that means, instead of doing the real "right thing" and releasing those patents to the public domain. Torpedo patents anyone...

          It keeps fly-by-night Third World companies from producing crappy, ineffect

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BarefootClown (267581)

          No company does anything out of the goodness of their heart unless it will lead to greater profits and/or market dominance. This is doubly so with the drug industry.

          Remind me again where they get the money to do research and development?

          What's that? You say the profit on sales of existing drugs funds research into future drugs? And that if companies stopped profiting from previous developments, future advances would stagnate?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jonaskoelker (922170)

      Why should people who had the dumb luck to be born in some shithole country be blessed with lower-priced medicine?

      Because in Soviet Russia^W^W^H Capitalist America, you can increase profits that way. And that's encouraged. In a market where you're free to not trade, any trade you do is good for the people who trade (according to simplistic Econ 101 principles, and discounting negative externalities, and ...).

      Whether selling cheap medicine in poor countries is a good thing in practice is another question.

      That's an attempt at an answer to your question. I want to add to that the following:

      I find it strange that you sa

      • shitholiness

        I think I see a new meme coming out of this one.
      • Well the good news is the people in these poverty stricken countries will now be able to sell medicines to us rich Americans, by undercutting the costs of the companies that sold them the medicines in the first place. Except the medicines will just be seized by the governments in the first place and they will make the profit.
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:35AM (#26871393)

      It is a case of supply vs. demand. It is just business. Each country or area has a different supply vs. demand curve. If the average population makes 30k a year there will be a different curve then people living on 10k a year. Getting the right balance will maximize profits and matching pricing for the right areas is more profitable.

      This happens in all sectors, say you are traveling around the world and you give the bell boy a 5 dollar tip. In the US that will like $5 for them (Deli-Meat for a week). In the country where the average is about $10k that is a $15 (Good cuts for meat for dinner about 2 days and the deli-meat) for the really poor countries where people make $1k a year. That would be close to a $150 tip (Food for a family for a week or 2).

      • by chihowa (366380)

        Each country or area has a different supply vs. demand curve.

        But this isn't true. The supply is global, not local to each country. They're trying to take advantage of a "global economy" on their supply side, but the segmented "local economies" on the demand side.

    • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:37AM (#26871405)

      Well, in the UK we have evil socialised medicine, so we don't have to pay the full cost of our medically necessary drugs. (There is a small, flat charge per prescription)

      • you don't really have any idea how much you really pay for except what comes directly out of your pocket the day you pick it up?

        Ignorance is bliss.

        you are paying the full cost, you just don't what full cost really is let alone what is really being paid. In other words, if you were getting ripped off you wouldn't know it. Now, if a drug cost less than the threshold are you given it for that lower cost or at the mandated price? (as in, do you pay more for cheap drugs to make up paying less for expensive o

        • you are paying the full cost, you just don't what full cost really is let alone what is really being paid. In other words, if you were getting ripped off you wouldn't know it.

          Yep. Just like HEALTH INSURANCE?

          In any system, the generally healthy (like me) are going to end up subsidising those who have more health problems.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      It's called price discrimination. Are you saying they shouldn't have the right to choose the price at which they sell the goods that they own, that they produced? Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

        Sure. He's not entitled to the sweat of my brow. Much of the research is actually done at schools and universities which receive public funding.

        • Either the research done at the schools was funded by them, and they're "entitled" to it, or the research was done by the schools for some other reason, and they either licensed it (go argue with the licensor about the fees if they weren't enough) or the research was put in the public domain, which everybody is free to put to use as they see fit (but they still need the facilities to put the research into practice anyway, an investment that I hope you agree is fair they recoup). Whichever way you turn it, t

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Its how things seem to work around here. If you are capable of barely making it, you get screwed.

    • by D Ninja (825055) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:34AM (#26871937)

      Why should people who had the dumb luck to be born in some shithole country be blessed with lower-priced medicine?

      This statement boggles my mind.

      Sure, the people born in the war-torn, poverty-ridden, disease-ridden, crime-laden hell hole of a country is getting cheaper medicine. Of course, then they're also dealing with war, heavy poverty, disease and crime.

      What Americans fail to understand is that, even the most poor off and worst person in America is (many times) still doing better than some of "rich" people in other countries.

      Of course, if you want to go live in said countries so you can get cheaper medicine, be my guest. You might learn a thing or two.

    • I am without insurance in the US, and medications for a chronic disease I have top $2000 (yes, thousand) a month.

      I'm sorry, but most middle and even upper middle class people will groan under that kind of expense, and i'm still just trying to start a career.

    • Consider that just because a nation's average income is relatively high, it does not follow that everyone in that country is able to buy the products at the higher price. Why should people who had the dumb luck to be born in some shithole country be blessed with lower-priced medicine?

      That's not social justice. It's social prejudice.

      Aww, I'm so sorry that you weren't be born into a malaria-infested swamp ravaged by ethnic warfare and that your country doesn't have coupons for 75% off popular drugs.

      Cry me a river, then sign up for Medicaid, you ungrateful bastard.

    • Since you seem to have a me-first attitude, I won't even try to pitch the idea of being, you know, a decent person. Instead, consider this: Pharmaceuticals are just as entitled to thinking of themselves first and foremost as you are.

      Which brings us to economics 101: Assume that demand for medication is very elastic [wikipedia.org] between the price points we're considering. By lowering the prices, (price * units sold) actually goes up, and they make more of a profit. (In developed countries, demand for medication tends to

  • by Guspaz (556486) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:24AM (#26871321) Homepage

    Aren't drugs already like 50% in Canada? So wouldn't a more meaningful gesture be to sell drugs for 25% of the price in Canada?

    Three-quarters-off a $200 prescription is still $50. Not something that people living on a dollar or two a day can afford.

  • Sounds great to me, when is a mail order pharmacy going to open up in one of these countries?

  • Isn't it the purpose of the patent system to make those inventions available for research in exchange for a monopoly?

  • It's funny how if people complain about problems with the latest ATI video card being 600 dollars we hear the peanut gallery mock about early adopters but when people complain about the same thing involving drugs we hear that it's nothing but greed on the manufacturers part.

    Drugs cost a ton to do R&D on. Let's be at least a little sympathetic to the plight of manufacturers trying to gain back their costs involved in bringing you the latest cures.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:44AM (#26871453)
      Medicine isn't some impulse buy of a newfangled gadget. People live and die by their ability to acquire it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:50AM (#26871505)
      That is utter nonsense. A large number of drugs created now days are simply older drugs that are slightly changed near the end of their patent life so the drug companies can basically get a new patent on an old drug.

      I think a good example of this is Nexium. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esomeprazole#Controversy [wikipedia.org]

      Another good example is the antidepressant Lexapro which is just the active isomer of Celexa.

      Yes, some drugs do cost an absolutely massive amount of money to develop but most drug companies are heading towards the cheaper option of extending their patents rather then creating anything new that could benefit society.

      • Let's not forget that many drugs are developed based on research funded by our national college systems. That is: developed based on research performed with our own money.

        Most of their money is spent advertising, rather than doing R and D; and what money *is* spent on R&D is all about penile erectile dysfunction, or hayfever.

      • by wisty (1335733)

        Now that you mention it ... A lot of drugs these days are new drugs that aren't as effective (or have uglier side effects) as good ol' aspirin and penicillian. Except the patents are expired on the old drugs, so they don't market them any more.

        Patent status can be more important than effectiveness. Heck, they only stopped marketing that antibiotic that made children hemorrhage to death when the patent expired (http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1139&context=marketing_papers)

        Heart at

    • by D-Cypell (446534)

      Yes, this post is incredibly insightful! Especially to myself and others like me who are currently suffering from terminal cases of 'Low frame rate'

      FFS!

    • by jellie (949898) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:00AM (#26871583)

      Yes, R&D costs are very high. But a significant portion of the research is sponsored by governments, not necessarily by drug manufacturers. Plus, it's hard to be sympathetic when drug manufacturers spend more money on marketing than on R&D. They also have one of the largest profit margins.

      It's a little unfair to be comparing the costs of drugs and of graphics cards. One is possibly a matter of life and death. And, in an economy in which every major industry is suffering, healthcare costs continue to rise.

    • by db32 (862117) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:05AM (#26871621) Journal
      Yeah! This is only possible because Starbucks has been lowering its coffee prices. The 40-60% they spend on marketing has dropped significantly since the truckloads of crap they buy docs has gotten cheaper in the failing economy. I will be a little sympathetic when their research costs more than the bribery they engage in. I will be a little sympathetic when they quit "modifying" drugs to get an extra 2% effectiveness on some minimal behavior of a drug to get a new patent for it so they can charge exhorbant prices over the previous version that can now be made in generic form for pennies. I will be a little sympathetic when they quit buying political figures to push for mandatory vaccinations of school girls at $360 a pop when even one of they key researches of the vaccine says it is not meant for girls that young and could actually be harmful.

      I mean seriously...let's all feel sorry for the serial killer that has to dig yet another hole...digging holes is hard work after all. Right now these companies are facing big problems in these countries because those governments are invalidating their patents right now. These companies want so much money that the peopel cannot afford that the people's governments have said "Fuck off, we will make our own generics". I suspect this "generous" price drop has more to do with putting political/economic pressure on these countries to enforce patents than it does some generous streak.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        I will be a little sympathetic when they quit "modifying" drugs to get an extra 2% effectiveness on some minimal behavior of a drug to get a new patent for it so they can charge exhorbant prices over the previous version that can now be made in generic form for pennies

        it's actually much worse than that. the FDA does NOT have a standard that says that a new drug has to even be as effective as the drug it replaces. And if the drug is substantially similar to the drug it is replacing, it does not even have to be subjected to a trial. Big Pharma continually replaces drugs with less effective drugs with unknown side effects, then makes claims that this is the best new thing even though those claims are completely unsubstantiated, in order to discredit the old drug which has g

    • by Zerth (26112)

      I'm very sympathetic to their R&D costs, those that aren't already paid for by the government. Even more for the costs of safety trials, those they don't fake.

      But since they could easily halve their drug costs by eliminating their "doctor schmoozing" division and their "Ads for hypochondriacs" division, which together cost more than their actual drug producing departments, I don't have much sympathy for the companies as a whole.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      Drugs cost a ton to do R&D on. Let's be at least a little sympathetic to the plight of manufacturers trying to gain back their costs involved in bringing you the latest cures.

      If a manufacturer tries to get just its R&D costs back, it looks like the drug is expensive.
      If a manufacturer tries to get its R&D costs back and tries to make indecent profits, it looks like the drug is expensive.

      How are we supposed to know which case is which ?

    • That's a wives tail that big pharma wants you to believe. Take a look at ATI's profit margin. Now take a look at any of the big pharma's profit margins.

      The average total profit margin on these companies' P&L statements is around 30%. That's global, after all factors are considered, including R&D.

      Yes, 30 cents of every dollar paid on drugs is pure profit. ATI would kill for that profit margin. No other industry has nearly that much profit. Before the economic downturn, Toyota was something like

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plasmacutter (901737)

      It's funny how if people complain about problems with the latest ATI video card being 600 dollars we hear the peanut gallery mock about early adopters but when people complain about the same thing involving drugs we hear that it's nothing but greed on the manufacturers part.

      You don't suffer in horrible agony, become debilitated and lose your job, family, or sanity, or die when you don't get a video card.

      Additionally, most R&D today is done in federally funded universities.

      Funny how the anti-socialized medicine crowd are all over it when it comes to helping main street but its perfectly fine to socialize the R&D for these companies, then hand them the patents.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) *

        You don't suffer in horrible agony, become debilitated and lose your job, family, or sanity, or die when you don't get a video card.

        I've seen some posts in gamer's forums that don't jibe with that statement.

    • Double standard? Who modded this joker insightful?

      You don't get a massive video card, you can't play $WIZZ_BANG_COOKIECUTTER_FPS_9.

      You don't get your medication, the consequences can include any/all of intense suffering, ruining one's life, and fucking DEATH.

      It's not a double standard when you're comparing apples to crowbars.

  • obvious why ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by tyroneking (258793) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:35AM (#26871395)

    from the article: "although they worry that it may undermine the generics industry which currently supplies the cheapest drugs in poor countries"

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:54AM (#26871529)

    FTA: "Campaigners privately say the move is remarkable, although they worry that it may undermine the generics industry which currently supplies the cheapest drugs in poor countries."

    Exactly. Big pharma is in big trouble - blockbuster drugs going off patent, no new ones coming online, Govs. getting more aggressive in fixing prices. So, this is a smart move. While they still can, they can use the one advantage they still have - their size - to buy/crush the small 'generics' producers out.

    Still, whatever the underlying motivation, it's encouraging to see big pharma at last getting more involved with the poorer nations of the world, which have been scandalously ignored.

  • by agoliveira (188870) <<adilson> <at> <adilson.net>> on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:01AM (#26871589)

    Of course they are not doing it from the kindness of their hearts. It's a matter of damage control. A country (any country) can break the patents and start producing any drug in case of need if a commercial arrangement can't be reached with the patent holder so, if they don't provide cheaper drugs, they will lose the whole deal.

    • How, exactly, are these governments going to get hold of the production process for these drugs they want to produce? Its not as simple as saying 'right, lets do it!'...
      • In BRIC countries at least they do have the facilities and technology as they do have their own local drug production.
        BTW, I wonder why I was modded flamebait, I really think like that and that was not my intention at all :/

  • TOTAL BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:03AM (#26871605) Journal
    The reason it is so high in places like China and India is because they have their money FIXED against ours and designed to pull the jobs away from the west. That causes high import prices. NOW, by lowering the price ARTIFICIALLY, and most likely moving the manufacturing lines to these countries, they kill their own future as well as those of us who did the RD in the first place. The fact that companies would do this is abhorrent. Now, we need to be allowed to re-import these drugs BACK to the west at the MUCH LOWER costs and kill these companies profits.
    • This is really no different than Region Coding DVD players. You can maximize profits by selling in each region what the market will bear. However, you have to find ways to ensure that people can't purchase that $2 new movie, and play it in their American player.

    • Re:TOTAL BS (Score:4, Informative)

      by Magnus Pym (237274) on Monday February 16, 2009 @01:10PM (#26873985)

      Not that I am a fan of outsourcing, but India's Rupee is not fixed, its value changes all the time against the dollar. The Chinese Yuan is, however, fixed.

      Magnus

  • The Plan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BTWR (540147) <(americangibor3) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:04AM (#26871617) Homepage Journal
    Step 1. Go to so-called "poor country."
    Step 2. Buy 10,000 units of drug X at 25% of its cost in the US/Canada/Europe.
    Step 3. Sell drug X in US/Canada/Europe at 50% of its normal Drug X cost (i.e. at twice the price you paid), advertising your pharmacy as having the best prices in the country.
    Step 4. (Just do step 3 a lot)
    Step 5. Profit!
    • "The Plan" won't work in the USA. Here's why.
      1) When you buy drugs outside of the USA, the FDA flips out and says that the drugs weren't subjected to "rigorous testing" or some such blather and (they do have a point here) without such testing, you have no way to know if you are really getting the drug you think you bought or a weakened version or a placebo. In a worst case scenario, you die from tainted medicine (remember China and the "milk"?)
      2) Federal law limits the amount of drugs that can legally be
    • by AndyboyH (837116)

      How about:
      Step 1. Go to so-called "poor country."
      Step 2. Buy 10,000 units of drug X at 25% of its cost in the US/Canada/Europe.
      Step 3. Give away 5,000 units of drug X to the people that need them, for free.
      Step 4. Sell 5,000 units of drug X in US/Canada/Europe at 50% of its normal Drug X cost (i.e. at twice the price you paid)
      Step 5. ???
      Step 6. No profit, just karma!

  • So... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CountBrass (590228)

    Not only do we taxpayers get to carry on subsidising the world's poor and keeping their leaders in designer shoes, now as customers of the drugs companies, we get to subsidise their medicines as well.

    I give to charities, domestic and foreign, because I've decided they are deserving of my money. It is not the job of Government to do so on my behalf.

    • by jellie (949898)

      How is this situation different from Microsoft or Adobe selling their "student's" or "teacher's" versions of their crappy software? It's a private company realizing that if they don't sell at a lower price, they will have no customers (or worse for them, be undercut by generic manufacturers). Granted, the CEO is doing a whole lot more than what the CEOs of the other companies (Merck, Pfizer, etc.) are doing.

      What does "Government" have to do with it? I would love to see countries invest more in efforts to ir

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rycross (836649) on Monday February 16, 2009 @04:40PM (#26876777)

      Well this case its a company, not a government, deciding to force charity, but don't let that get in the way of your libertarian rage.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And we pillory it?

    It may well end up increasing GSK's bottom line, but it will also bring needed drugs at reduced prices to people who may not otherwise be able to acquire them.

    Also in the current climate of corporate idiocy isn't it rather refreshing to see a major corporation do something very smart and provide social benefits at the same time?

    No you guys are right, let's stick it to 'em!

  • by confused one (671304) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:28AM (#26871875)

    While one might like to think they're purpose is wholly based on charity, it's not that simple. Look, They have to offer the drugs at a lower price in third world economies if they want to sell them there. Also, selling drugs cheap in developing countries has been shown to provide long term returns for the companies (once the economy of the developing country grows into a functional first world economy, the drug manufacturer will already have a foot-hold).

    And it's easy enough to meet their price of 25% of US and UK prices statement, by setting the US and UK price high enough.

    I'm not being cynical. I'm being a realist who's read some history.

    • I agree. I just think they could lower their US prices a little if they did not advertise prescription products. Something about that whole process bothers me, and not just because the ads tend to be in the highest cost time slots. The drug companies spend huge amounts of money to tell people, "We have done all we can to get your doctor to give you this wonderful drug, now you should do it, too, and don't give up! Ofcoursetheremaybehorrificsideeffects, but look how wonderful the people in our ads feel!"

      And

  • sigh. i'm brazilian and I know that that means. Don't use your market logics on this one. There is a market of "generic drugs" here; we basically rip off the main components of the formula, the active principle, and rename it. It's funded by the governament and sometimes 90% cheaper than imported drugs. I used to be neighbours to the owner of one of these labs that made generics; reaaaally rich guy (go figure) even so, Brazil is today a world reference in AIDS treatment and we have the best govt. coverage
  • ... if it weren't for the fact that I'm skeptical enough to know better.

    Ignoring the fact that they spend twice as much on advertising as on R&D [sciencedaily.com], routinely dump their toxic crap in underdeveloped countries [wsws.org]; the truth is that the majority [blogsome.com]of their products [nytimes.com] are worthless [medindia.net], and may do more harm than good [bbc.co.uk]
  • We're actually at a turning point with a lot of these less developed countries. More and more of them are advancing to a point where they're technically capable of making their own generic versions of these extremely expensive drugs (see Cuba).

    Politically it would be dynamite. I can see promises of free healthcare winning Elections, and in lieu of democracy, revolutions.

    Make no mistake, we're entering dangerous times for Big Drug Inc.

    GSK have realized that either they make their prices acceptable, or they m

  • by DaMattster (977781)
    I am all for helping the poor, but we have to help the poor in our own respective countries first. It is little known that there are parts of the deep south mired in shocking poverty which resembles trips to third world nations. There are areas of the Louisiana Bayous, Macon County, GA, and parts of the Mississippi Delta that have no electricity, running water, sewage treatment, or any other amenity that most others enjoy. I am so sick of our politicians blatantly ignoring the suffering of our own people
  • by genoese (415161) * on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:03PM (#26873021) Homepage

    Human nature being what it is, this is an excellent opportunity for black market corruption -- drug company sells to developing country. Corrupt elements in developing country sell back to corrupt black marketeers who then resell in 'rich' countries to corrupt vendors for reduced prices and still make huge profits.
    And still the people who need the drugs don't get them, but maybe some actually will, and that's a good thing.

  • 10 cents over seas and $5 for the same pill here.

    Gets really irritating when we are now in the same job market.

  • by kid-noodle (669957) <jono&nanosheep,net> on Monday February 16, 2009 @02:42PM (#26875181) Homepage
    I note the comments are filled with cynicism, sarcasm & general snarking - a not unreasonable approach to any announcement from GSK or any other pharmaceuticals company.

    That said - this is potentially a really fantastic thing. New CEO, new game plan. Also worth noting that GSK is the second biggest pharma company in the world - this has a pretty good probability of forcing other large pharma companies to follow suit and opens the door to more of the same (for example, HIV/AIDS drugs are not covered in the patent pooling - this is still a move in the right direction, it will make subsequent moves along the same lines easier.)

    Patent pooling is something NGOs have been asking big pharma to do for years now. This is a hugely positive move.

    Of course GSK have motives to do this besides doing good, that does not mean doing good is ruled out.

    (And I will now be watching the obits for news of Andrew Witty's untimely demise.)

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