Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Gleevec Story: Part 2

This is the second part of the article. See below for Part 1.

The pharmaceutical industry and other ancillary industries which depend on modern allopathic medicine make only a weak pretense at being anything but profit making entities. This is fine as long as the physician acts as the intermediary between them and the patient, determining objectively when a patient really needs a particular pharmaceutical product.

However what has dramatically changed over the last two decades or so is that with the advent of globalisation and the birth of the multinational corporation, pharmaceutical companies find that in addition to stupendous profits, globalised trade also allows them to wield enormous amounts of power to influence international and local trade policy as well as the decision making capabilities of healthcare institutions and individual doctors. Time and again they have used this power to further their interests even when their decisions have adversely affected people’s access to essential medicines.

The only effective tool to influence a profit driven corporation is one that reduces profit. The need of the hour is to build a strong consumer movement which can protect itself through effective mechanisms that put pressure on big pharmaceutical corporations. World over it has been shown that when confronted with resolute consumers determined to ensure fair marketing practices, corporations have rarely risked profit endangering bad publicity and in many cases have backed down.

Doctors everywhere have a clear choice ahead of them. Whether to side with corporate bodies and become in effect corporate doctors with six figure salaries and a full range of pharmaceutical sops but no power to stand up against a corporate decision or whether to side with their patients and demand that people’s needs are put before profits, a position which guarantees a lower pay scale, more work, greater freedom and a fuller sense of job satisfaction.

This is a choice that our current system of medical education which is conspicuous in its silence about ethical issues and a strong economic and political understanding of the pharmaceutical industry leaves us ill-equipped to make.

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