Since one year, pressured by growing international mobilization, pharmaceutical laboratories are trying to improve their image without however, relinquishing control of the markets.
In 1999, with pubic opinion mounting against the blackmail and pressure that BMS applies to certain countries to prevent national production of treatment products at lower cost, this laboratory launched its humanitarian marketing operation Secure the Future. The purpose of the program is to educate communities and fund research projects, but certainly not to make any commitments about making medications accessible. At the price the laboratory sells its treatment products for, it is true that the 100 million allocated for the program would have quickly been swallowed up. Pharmaceutical laboratories only interest us when they provide molecules to sick people. Their attempts to appear contritely charitable are not our concern.
In March 2000, a group of people with AIDS from South Africa leading an international campaign, submitted the following alternative to Pfizer : sell Triflucan at the price offered by a generic drug company in Thailand (15 times less expensive than that of Pfizer) or authorize the government to set up its own production. The laboratory tried to gain time and in April announced a donation of Triflucan to South African people with AIDS who were both unable to pay for treatment and suffering from cryptococcal meningitis.
Proposing free treatment to people who are dying without, Pfizer minimizes the likelihood of its offer being refused. In other words, it’s a successfull publicity stunt. Achieving this offer (which is not yet the case) the drug company would place a whole country under transfusion (figuratively speaking), and make it dependent on its own good will. Donations of medicines allow laboratories to play lord of the manor while economizing (tax exemptions and other fiscal advantages) without having to lower prices. In any case it is not a long-term solution for nations or for people with HIV/AIDS.
Eventually, in May, five laboratories announced that they were going to think about a possible price reduction policy for poor countries. The international organizations UNAIDS and WHO let themselves be courted by the pharmaceutical industry, forgetting to defend the health of sick people. Several months later, no tangible measure had been taken. Nothing proves that these laboratories are finally ready to apply a pricing scale appropriate to the payment capacities of poor countries. Moreover, in order for the whole range of therapeutic options to be available, all of the companies concerned would have to join the scheme, which is not presently the case.
Announcements follow announcements and each actor tries to keep its image clean but the reality of people living with HIV/AIDS remains exactly the same.
Therefore, it is imperative for poor countries to find other solutions, by having generic medications produced by national drug companies, by building up regional markets, and by purchasing from suppliers that offer reasonable prices.
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