Friday 5 April 2013

When businesses become WMD (PO)

M D Nalapat

Friday, April 05, 2013 - Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are feared for the immense loss of life that they can cause, once unleashed. Thus far, the term has referred to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons used in situations of conflict. However, the reality is that several hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocents get caused by agencies that are pampered and protected by the very governments that constantly talk of (someone else’s) WMD. These are businesses dealing in commodities important to life, such as pharmaceuticals. Huge pharma companies based in the US and Europe have for the past two decades sought to prevent competitors in poorer countries from developing and marketing medicines as efficaceous as the ones the pharma giants peddle, but which often cost less than 10% of the prices charged by NATO Bloc-based entities and their allied states.

Each year, millions die of diseases that could have been cured, but only if the treatment were affordable. The pharma giants who are based in countries which daily lecture the world about “human rights” and “civilisational values” gouge the sick by making available their products only at very high prices. Take the Swiss-based Novartis as an example. Presumably, the principal shareholders of the company belong to the Christian faith. It is likely that they would be regular churchgoers and that they would be making small (in relation to their total wealth) donations to charity in order to make themselves believe that they are moral human beings.

However, by placing individual profit above social needs, they are betraying the example of Jesus Christ, the scourge of the money changers in the temple, who insisted that he and his followers should voluntarily live a life of poverty. For the past seven years, Novartis has engaged the highest-priced lawyers in India to prevent domestic companies from producing medicines for cancer which it claims infringe upon its patent for a drug,Glivec.

In common with other pharna giants based in the NATO bloc and that alliance’s ancillary partners,once the patent on Glivec expired,Novartis made a few small changes in its composition and passed off the resulting variant as a new drug, thereby meriting a fresh patent. Shamefully, several authorities and even courts in selected countries accepted this transparent effort at squeezing the last banknote of profit from the deaths of thousands condemned because they cannot afford the extortionate price of Glivec, which is reported to cost nearly US$ 60,000 for a year’s treatment, or a hundred times more than the India-produced substitutes that Novartis was seeking to drive out of the market Hundreds of thousands of victims of AIDS are alive today because Chairman Hameed of CIPLA,an Indian pharna company with conscience and not greed at its core,is producing anti-AIDS drugs at a small fraction of the prices charged by US and European companies. Hameed is saving lives that less scrupulous companies do not care about,because they have no money, the only attribute which the owners of such WMD in corporate form care about. This has made CIPLA a target of several vicious legal and media attacks designed to drive the company out of business. Shamefully,the European Union is seeking to blocktranshipment through its territory of low-cost medicines bound for Africa,by the use of legal and administrative measures which are openly protectionist.

Of course, no human rights” campaigner in Europe or the US cares to hold the bureaucrats of Brussels to account for seeking - albeit indirectly-the deaths of thousands in Africa by denying them access at an affordable price to life-saving drugs produced in India Former President of the US B Ill Clinton, who during the 1990s ensured the freedom from regulation of US financial giants that led directly to the 2008 meltdown, controls foundations with a corpus reported to be in excess of US$ 16 billion. Because Clinton has not yet made public the sources of funds for his enterprises, there is no public record of how much pharna giants engaged in keeping the prices of formulations beyond the reach of the common man have contributed to his kitty. Certainly while in office Clinton ensured that cheaper substitutes for extortionately priced drugs were denied access to US markets in the same way as they were banned in the EU. The principal reason why the healthcare system in the US is helping to bankrupt the country is because of the control that huge drug companies have over policymakers across both sides of the Atlantic. The only way that healthcare in both the US as well as the EU can be made affordable is to source medicines and other services from the many low cost but high quality providers that have sprung up in countries such as India. However, instead of following such a citizen-friendly policy, governments in countries which constantly sermonize to the rest of the world partner with the few against the many, securing profit to a handful in exchange for misery to millions.

Those pharma companies which place greed above morality claim that the high prices are needed to ensure research costs get covered. This argument is false. Much of the research takes place in government-funded labs rather than in those of the drug giants.Also,much of the research done by the latter get carried out in Third World locations where staff are paid a pittance compared to what their counterparts earn at home. Were the UN - especially its human rights wing - less deferential to NATO and its allies,an investigation would get launched into the way in which Corporate WMD has killed innocent lives by ensuring that prices of essentials such as food and medication soar beyond the reach of the overwhelming mass of humanity. However, such a day seems distant, at best.

No comments:

Post a Comment