Tuesday, March 06, 2007

let's hear it for a big pharmaceutical comapny

(i have adapted this from an editorial in yesterday's new york times:)

it's hard to feel a pang of sincere enthusiasm for any big pharmaceutical company, for they are rightly criticized for concentrating on the development and marketing of drugs that sell for high prices in the industrialized world while neglecting to produce medications that could save millions of lives in the poorest countries.

poor countries? ask anyone without health insurance who needs specialist medication, just how much that medication can cost in the united states of america.

and then comes along paris-based Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth-largest drug company, working in collaboration with a nonprofit drug-development organization pioneered by Doctors Without Borders, will soon introduce a cheap and easy-to-use pill to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

The pill combines two drugs that are already in use into a single medication that can be taken once a day for three days by young children and twice a day for three days by adults to cure the infection.

The course of treatment is notably cheap — less than 50 cents for children and less than $1 for adults. Sanofi will make no profit on sales to public health agencies and international institutions that typically serve poor people. But it will also produce a branded version to be sold in the private markets of developing countries at three or four times the public price.

To its additional credit, the company has agreed not to seek a patent on the one-pill formulation so that generic companies, like those in India, can produce the pills cheaply and add to the quantities of medicine needed to treat many millions of malaria victims around the world.

Now that Sanofi has shown, in the words of one executive, that “we are not nasty people working against poor countries and seeking only profits,” let us hope that many other big drug companies feel the same humanitarian impulse.

i'd go one further. i'd ask. "what exactly are the worlds' three biggest pharmaceutical companies doing for the world's most disadvantaged...?"

collectively not as much as the fourth, it would appear...

Malaria is most common in tropical and subtropical lands, particularly sub- Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. It is both a cause of poverty and a result of poverty. Each year, between 300 million and 500 million acute cases are diagnosed and 1.5 million to 2.7 million people die of the disease.

that's a conservative estimate of 3 people dying of this disease every single minute...

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