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Drug Giant Pledges Cheap Medicine For World's Poor 317

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 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).

  • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:35AM (#26871947)

    Remember Slashdot is not generally known for its strong understanding of sarcasm. Use the tag Luke!

  • by Caue ( 909322 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:44AM (#26872031)
    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 for it (US health system is really bellow us in this, but only this) so there you go economy in a nutshell
  • Johnson != Johnson (Score:4, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> 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?

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:23AM (#26872507) Homepage Journal

    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 gone generic and may actually be more effective than the new drug - nobody actually knows until the drug hits the market and either is more or less effective, starts killing people, whatever... because no tests whatsoever have actually been done.

    When you add to this the drug reps and doctors' collaboration on discrediting the old drugs and prescribing you the new drugs, which results in both of them getting cash bonuses, you can see that the system is not set up to help people, but just to make money at any human cost.

    Even social services are used as a means to push the agendas of Big Pharma. For example, the California state health plan "Medi-Cal" (and its relative CMSP) will not cover many older, effective drugs any more. Why not? They're readily available in generic form. Medi-Cal will also only pay for you to have silver fillings, regardless of cost, even though they are backed with Mercury and that mercury is known to leech out of your teeth throughout the course of your life. In fact, hot beverages are known to cause the release of mercury vapors. Time for my morning coffee on top of my eleven silver fillings!

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:14PM (#26873161) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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.


  • 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 hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...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 Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @02:04PM (#26874671)

    Drugs are not sold by hospitals. Drugs in hospitals are free. For prescriptions, people buy their drugs from a pharmacist. The province isn't the one purchasing those. Pricing has nothing to do with the province.

    In fact, prices in Canada are controlled by a federal Government entity, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board:

    http://www.pmprb-cepmb.gc.ca/ [pmprb-cepmb.gc.ca]

    They set pricing limits. This has nothing to do with "huge bulk orders".

  • by Daemonik ( 171801 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @03:28PM (#26875813) Homepage

    (Also, can you provide a citation for the allegation that Marketing outweighs R&D? Although I agree with your sentiment, most marketing is directed at physicians in the form of educational materials, rather than patients)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080105140107.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    Marketing is double the cost of research. That probably does not also include lobbying fees

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmaceutical_lobby [wikipedia.org]

    The top twenty pharmaceutical companies and their two trade groups, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Biotechnology Industry Organization, lobbied on at least 1,600 pieces of legislation between 1998 and 2004. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, pharmaceutical companies spent $900 million on lobbying between 1998 and 2005, more than any other industry. During the same period, they donated $89.9 million to federal candidates and political parties, giving approximately three times as much to Republicans as to Democrats.[1] According to the Center for Public Integrity, from January 2005 through June 2006 alone, the pharmaceutical industry spent approximately $182 million on Federal lobbying.[2] The industry has 1,274 registered lobbyists in Washington D.C. [3]

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